Making the Most of Melons
Melons are composed of 92% water by weight, and are one of the best sources of water-soluble electrolytes (mineral salts like potassium, magnesium and manganese). Thought to have originated in sub-Saharan Africa over 4,000 years ago, wild melons have been traced to Africa, as well as the Middle East and India. Today people grow over 1,200 varieties melons all over the world.
Visit our Produce Department to find fresh, fabulous melons from local farms, including lesser known, heirloom melons. Local farmer Art Heinemann, owner of Edible Acres Farm in Tonasket, supplies us with a limited amount of rare, organic Ha-Ogen, Petit Gris, and Canary Melons, as well as Orange-Glo watermelons. In the words of Produce Department manager Ben: “These are some of the finest melons in existence.”
The most common varieties in the United States are watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe. Cantaloupe, which has a characteristic “netted” exterior and medium-dense orange flesh has a sweet, musky flavor and is sometimes referred to regionally as “muskmelon.” Honeydew, a pale green-fleshed melon with a sweet floral honey flavor, is a firmer-flesh melon that is excellent eaten fresh but also holds up to caramelizing on the grill. Melon can take a place at the dinner table as a featured element in salads, drinks, grain dishes, and even soups.
Choosing & Storing a Ripe Melon
Selecting a ripe melon can be tricky, and each type has its own tricks:
- Watermelon: Look for a creamy, butter-yellow spot on one side of the fruit. This is where it rested on the ground in the field. If this spot is white or pale green, the fruit is not yet ripe and will not ripen further. Once you find a watermelon with a creamy yellow patch, knock on the outside gently – the fruit should sound hollow and vibrate like a drum. This means that the flesh inside is still crisp. If it fails to vibrate, it is likely overripe.
- Cantaloupe: Look for fruits that have a primarily tan or yellow “under coloring.” This means, underneath the rough “netting” on the outside, you see an even yellow color with no green. Cantaloupe that is green beneath its net will not be ripe. Finally, press your thumb gently near the stem-end of the fruit. If it has a bit of give, the texture should be perfect!
- Honeydew: these melons have a unique property when ripe – the outside skin changes from smooth and hard to velvety and slightly tacky, like running your hand on suede. This is the sugar content maturing and coming through the skin. Also, the fruits change from a pale, celery green exterior to a warm, yellow-green. It’s subtle, but still the best indicator of ripeness for honeydew.
- Petit Gris: In the words of farmer Art Heinemann: “You have to rely on different indicators. Instead of a bright color, they start to fade a bit. With the Petite Gris they get a slight buff look, instead of a bright color. Color starts to fade a bit. Petite Gris actually means little grey melon. So when they go from green to grey they’re ready.”
Store melons at room temperature until ready to eat. You can store a very ripe or cut melon in the refrigerator to keep it fresh for several days, but it’s best eaten at room temperature for maximum flavor. Read on for some recipes to make the most of seasonal melons.
Melon Mash Up Smoothie
Don’t underestimate the pleasure and nourishing flavor of a melon simply blended with lime juice. Keep blended melon mixture covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. For a smoothie variation add greens, banana, berries, and/or mango. Freeze leftover mixture in ice cube trays for future use.
- 1 large, ripe cantaloupe melon
- Juice from 1 lime
- Ice cubes, for serving
Directions: Wash and cut the melon, dicing into blendable-sized chunks. Place in a food processor or blender. Add the lime juice. Serve over ice.
Ceviche with Melon
Recipe serves 4
Often enjoyed as an appetizer or brunch, this South American staple is delicious with fresh corn on the cob or boiled new potatoes. Serve in small individual bowls or martini glasses, garnished with lime wedges.
- 1/2 pound sea bass or halibut
- 1/4 pound sea scallops, side muscles removed
- 1/4 pound raw shrimp, 25-30 size
- 2 limes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper
- 2 oranges
- 2 tablespoons minced green onions
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups watermelon, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 cup cantaloupe, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
Directions: Dice the fish and cleaned scallops into small cubes (about 1/4 to 3⁄8 inch square) or 1/4-inch thin slices. Peel and de-vein the shrimp, then cut in half lengthwise or dice. Set aside.
Zest the room-temperature oranges and limes separately. Set aside zest, then juice the limes and top off with fresh orange juice to make 1 to 1 1/4 cups of juice.
In a large bowl, combine the seafood with 1 tablespoon each of the orange and lime zests, the juice, olive oil, jalapeño, green onions and salt. Gently stir, then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. The acid in the juice will “cook” the seafood. When the seafood is no longer translucent, add the watermelon, cantaloupe, mint and cilantro and stir gently. Use a slotted spoon to divide the ceviche among four small serving bowls.