A Multitude of Melons

7.10.17 – It’s July and it’s hot, which means melon season is here! Most people know about watermelons, cantaloupes, and honeydew, but there are actually dozens of other varieties found all over the world.

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History

Melons originated in Africa and southwest Asia and gradually made their way in Europe. A recent discovery of melon seeds in Nuragic sacred walls were dated between 1350 and 1120 BC, which suggest the Nuragic civilization (of Sardinia) were the first people to cultivate melons in Europe. Today, melons are one of the most widely cultivated fruits across the world. Watermelons are especially popular on July 4th in America. In 2016, $83 million worth of watermelons were purchased on Independence day. In Japan, a pair of Yubari melons, the Cadillacs of melons, once sold for ¥2.5 million (about $22,000).

Helpful Tip

Choosing a melon can be tricky. The best indication of a melon’s ripeness is its scent. A ripe melon will have a sweet aroma. The melon should feel heavy for its size but not have any major bruising.

 

Melon Varieties

Watermelon

watermelons

It’s a vine-like flowering plant. It has thick green skin (which is edible) along with a yellow, red, or orange fleshy center. Watermelons are about 90% water. When ripe, they are very sweet and juicy.

 

Cantaloupe

One of the most widely known melons. Their name comes from Cantalupo, which is a region near Rome where this fruit was cultivated. Cantaloupes have a rough, web-like skin and a dense, orange fleshy center. When ripe, this melon can be as sweet as candy.

 

Horned Melon

This melon has unique horned skin. Horned melons have a tart interior that have a jelly-like texture somewhere between a zucchini and a cucumber. It has yellow-orange skin and a bright green interior.

 

Crenshaw Melon

This is a hybrid melon. It is a mix between a Casaba melon and a Persian melon. It is considered one of the sweetest melons. It has yellow-green skin and a pale, sweet fleshy interior.

 

Honeydew Melon

This melon has a sweet and juicy taste although its flavor tends to be more subtle than other melons. It is a popular dessert ingredient. It has very smooth, pale skin and a green, fleshy interior.

 

Bitter Melon

This melon originated in the Indian subcontinent. It is called a “pare” in Indonesia. This melon has a very bitter taste (go figure) and is usually treated more like a vegetable in recipes.

 

Canary Melon

This is a huge, bright yellow melon. They get their name from the brightly colored, Canary bird. It has an elongated shape with pale green or white flesh. Canary melons are primarily sweet.

 

Santa Claus Melon

This melon has a thick, green-striped rind. It is very sweet like a cantaloupe. This melon is actually at its peak in December so you will have to wait to try it. It would pair well with a holiday dinner.

 

Recipes

Melon Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped cantaloupe
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup freshly torn cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Let sit for at least 20 minutes before serving to allow for the flavors to meld.

 

Frozen Watermelon-Lime Agua Fresca

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large watermelon, seeded and cubed (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lime zest, plus extra for topping
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cups ice

For serving:

  • lime wedges

Instructions:

Place the watermelon, lime juice, zest, sugar, salt and ice into a blender. Blend until mixture is a slushy consistency. Taste for sugar and add more if desired. Pour into glasses  and top with lime wedges and extra zest. Enjoy immediately!

 

Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta and Mint

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, hulled and quartered
  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tbsp sliced shallots
  • 1/2 Serrano chile (omit if you don’t like heat)
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 1 1/2 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 2 tbsp high quality olive oil
  • salt and peper to taste
  • 4 ounces fresh feta, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

Instructions:

Cut the watermelon into cubes, reserving bite-sized pieces for garnish. Hull and quarter the tomatoes, and add them to a bowl along with the cucumber, shallots, and Serrano chile. Pour the vinegar over the vegetables and let them soak for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. This helps bring out the vegetables natural flavors

Add the marinated vegetables and the basil leaves into a food processor and pulse until well blended (the mixture should look like a finely chopped salsa). Add about 75% of the watermelon, plus the olive oil, salt, and pepper to the mixture and pulse again until completely puréed. Add the other 25% of the watermelon cubes and pulse until the soup has reached your desired consistency ( like a few small chunks of watermelon in mine). Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed. Chill in the refrigeraotr for 30 to 60 minutes.

When ready to served, place the reserved watermelon cubes into four bowls and ladle the gazpacho over them. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the soup and finish with a sprinkle of the chopped mint. Serve immediately and enjoy!

 

 

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