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When I need lemons and can't get them at a farmers market, I stop by Imwalle Gardens, where they are never more than 25 cents each. It's one of the best deals around, especially when other markets are charging 59, 69 and 89 cents each, prices I've seen recently.

Last week, I'd paid for my lemons and a few other things and was heading out the door when I saw a box full of pomegranates. Nothing could have made me happier. I picked one up and nearly kissed it.

Pomegranates have always been a singular herald of fall and for many years I've known pretty much to the day when I would see the first of the season. Sometime in late August or early September, the light takes on a saturated golden glow and on my next trip to a market there they are, beautiful talismans of the coming season. Initially, I was surprised but soon I came to anticipate their appearance. The light would change, I'd head to Andy's Produce Market and there they were. They never let me down.

Or not until a year or so ago.

I was looking for pomegranates in October and was surprised not to find them, as we were already well into their season. When I asked a clerk, I was informed that "pomegranates aren't in season until sometime after Thanksgiving."

But I'd been buying them from her in September for years.

I tried to explain, but she'd have none of it. If I hadn't paid such close attention to pomegranates over the years, I'd have doubted my sanity.

But I have been paying attention and here's what has happened. A number of years ago, a large international company planted thousands of acres of pomegranates in southeast California and they seem to have shifted the season. Fresh pomegranates used to vanish in early December but now you can find this brand all the way into March.

I won't complain about extending the season for pomegranates, though I do find it a tad unsettling. I love having them in early spring, but spring pomegranates are a luxury. I need them in late summer and early fall, and am grateful to Imwalle's for restoring my faith in the rhythm of the seasons that I have enjoyed since I was a child, when I received my first pomegranate ever on Halloween night.

To enjoy a pomegranate, you first have to release the juicy arils from the leathery skin, membranes and albedo (cream-colored flesh) that contain them. Lately, the trend has been to do this in a large bowl of water; the arils sink to the bottom and the membranes and albedo float. It may be less messy but the water dilutes the juices and you end up with less intensity of flavor than if you simply remove the seeds over a large container. If you cut the pomegranate in half through its equator and then break apart each half, the arils are quite easy to extract. And, sure, it's a messy activity but good food often is.

Today's recipes celebrate the intersection of summer and fall, a time when watermelon is often at its peak, pomegranates are just coming on and a new crop of walnuts will appear any minute.

For more pomegranate recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit Eat This Now at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

Haloumi is a brine-cured cheese from Cyprus; it can be made from goat, sheep and cow's milk and holds its shape when fried. It is readily available in most markets.

Fried Haloumi with Pomegranates, Melon and Mint

Makes 3 to 4 servings

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces Haloumi, cut into ?-inch thick slices

4 cups cubed watermelon, preferably yellow (see Note below)

— Arils from 1 pomegranate

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

8 to 10 spearmint leaves, cut into very thin strips

Put just enough olive oil into a heavy saute pan to coat the bottom and set the pan over medium heat. Add the cheese and fry until golden brown; turn and continue to cook until evenly browned on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes more.

Transfer the fried Haloumi to individual plates and scatter the watermelon and pomegranate arils over it. Season very lightly with salt and add several generous turns of black pepper. Sprinkle the mint on top and serve.

Note: You'll find the best watermelon at farmers markets. This year, I've enjoyed Nancy Skall's extraordinary "Moon and Stars," a pale yellow watermelon, and the yellow watermelons from Bernier Farms.

A composed salad is one that features its ingredients in discrete sections rather than mixed together, a style that is quite visually engaging. If you prefer, this salad can be tossed in a large bowl. To do so, toss the lettuce, avocado, celery, feta, walnuts and pomegranates together and add the dressing last.

Composed Salad of Avocado, Celery, Feta, Pomegranates and Walnuts with Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 small shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon pomegranate vinegar

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes

1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 or 3 Little Gem lettuces

1 to 2 firm ripe avocados, cut into ?-inch cubes

3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into 1/8-inch wide diagonal slices

6 to 8 ounces feta, broken into pieces

? cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted

—Arils from 1 pomegranate

First, make the vinaigrette. Put the shallot, garlic, lemon juice and vinegar into a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes, parsley and olive oil, taste and correct for salt. Set aside.

Set the lettuces on a clean work surface, remove the cores and use a sharp knife to cut each lettuce into crosswise strips about ? to ? inch wide. Sprinkle the lettuce with a little kosher salt, fluff it with your fingers and divide it among individual salad plates, spreading it over the surface of each plate.

Add the avocado, celery, feta and walnuts, piling each ingredient separately on top of the shredded lettuce. Spoon vinaigrette over each salad, scatter pomegranates on top and serve immediately.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@ micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs. pressdemocrat.com

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