These thick-rinded, sweet-fleshed fruit are divided into two categories: muskmelons and watermelons. Muskmelons include familiar varieties such as cantaloupe, casaba, and honeydew. Most people don’t know that melons belong to the same gourd family as winter squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Although referred to as a fruit, melons are also recognized as a “culinary vegetable,” and can be prepared like their more savory cousins. Nontraditional melon preparations include tomato and watermelon salad, melon gazpacho and melon salsa. All parts of the melon can be consumed: African and Indian cultures often ground or roast melon seeds, and even the rind can be enjoyed by pickling or preserving.
The melon has tempted taste buds since the reign of Egyptian pharaohs. Some of its earliest appearances include pre-biblical paintings as well as the imperial menus created by Apicius, Rome’s very own Julia Child. The fruit made its way to the American palate in colonial times and was later cultivated in California by the Spanish.
Melons are a good source of vitamins A & C and potassium. They have high water content are relatively low in calories, and also fat and cholesterol free.
Watermelon will also provide you with a carotenoid called lycopene, which is what gives watermelon its red color. Lycopene acts as an antioxidant and may help prevent some types of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. As research into the benefits of lycopene is still preliminary, there is no set recommendation for lycopene intake. However, each 1-cup serving of watermelon contains about 6.9 milligrams of this beneficial phytochemical.
Keep uncut melons at room temperature for two to four days or until fully ripe, then refrigerate for up to 5 days. Refrigerate cut up melon in a covered container up to 3 days. Remember that cut melons are aromatic and their smell will penetrate other foods.
Melon preparation is easy! Always wash melons in warm water before cutting to get rid of any impurity on the rind that might be carried from the knife blade to the flesh. Simply cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Melons can be cut into halves, quarters, wedges, cubes, or scooped into balls with a melon baller. Most melons will benefit from a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to enhance the flavor and served at room temperature.
Melons are actually very versatile: Not just for picnics anymore! Try them in soups, salsa, kebabs, salads, smoothies, appetizers or drinks. Check out some of the recipes below for inspiration.
Cantaloupe with Ricotta and Pistachios
Great for breakfast, snacks or as a party dish. Serves 2
- 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
- 1/4 cup pistachios, chopped, toasted if desired
- 1/4 cantaloupe, seeded, peeled, and sliced
- 2 tablespoons honey (optional)
Divide ricotta between two small bowls; sprinkle with pistachios. Serve with cantaloupe, drizzled with honey, if desired.
Cucumber, Cantaloupe and Squash Salad
I love the time of year when all these things can be found in your box at the same time...enjoy! Serves 4
- 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
- Finely grated zest of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 3 yellow summer squashes (about 1 pound), unpeeled
- 1 English cucumber (about 10 ounces), unpeeled
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice-wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 large cantaloupe, rind removed
Make the dressing: Combine yogurt, lime zest and juice, salt, cumin, and pepper. Cover, and refrigerate 20 minutes.
Make the salad: Using a vegetable peeler or a mandoline, shave squashes and cucumber into wide ribbons, stopping when you reach seeds. Toss with vinegar and salt. Cover, and refrigerate. Shave cantaloupe into ribbons, and refrigerate.
Just before serving, drain cucumber and squash ribbons, and toss with cantaloupe. Drizzle with dressing.
Cantaloupe, Lime & Chili Soup
Keep the kitchen cool with this no-cook soup - the secret to the surprisingly complex flavor is pairing the mellow produce with a shot of spice! Serves 3
- 3-pound cantaloupe
- 3/4 teaspoon sambal oelek (Asian chili paste)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Cut flesh of cantaloupe into large chunks. Puree with sambal oelek, lime juice, and salt in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour. Stir well, and swirl in more sambal oelek if desired before serving.
SOURCE: MARTHA STEWART LIVING, JULY 2012
hese chilly sweets provide cool relief in hot weather...and lots of smiles! Serves 8
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 honeydew melon (about 5 pounds) or 2 cantaloupes (3 pounds each)
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat sugar with 2 tablespoons water, stirring occasionally, until dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes; set aside.
Peel, seed, and coarsely chop melon. In a food processor, puree melon with sugar syrup until smooth (to yield about 6 cups); pour into a large, shallow dish.
Freeze, stirring and breaking up crystals with a fork every 30 minutes, until entire mixture is frozen and crystallized, about 3 hours.
SOURCE: EVERYDAY FOOD, JULY/AUGUST 2004
rosciutto with Melon
A delightful pairing - great for appetizers and party starters! Makes 12
- 1/2 medium honeydew melon
- 6 slices prosciutto (about 3 ounces total)
Seed 1/2 medium honeydew melon; slice into 12 half-inch thick pieces, and remove rind from each. Halve 6 slices prosciutto (about 3 ounces total) lengthwise. Wrap 1 slice around each melon piece.
SOURCE: EVERYDAY FOOD, JUNE 2006