Melon

Melon is a genuine fruit of the summer.

Oval or perfectly round, unblemished skin, wrinkled or rough, one thing is true: all the varieties have a juicy, sweet, very aromatic flesh. There is nothing more refreshing than chilled chunks of melon in the crushing heat.

Spoilt for choice of melon

Cantaloupe - Thick skin with deep dark green ridges; exceptionally fragrant and sweet orange flesh. Halve small cantaloupe melons, remove the seeds, chill and eat with a spoon. Serve it sliced with Serrano or Prosciutto crudo. Process diced melon until made into a thick puree; use this melon sauce to garnish chilled tapioca and rice pudding desserts or ice cream.

Charentais - Similar to Cantaloupe; thick yellowish skin with green ridges and orange flesh with an incredibly sweet flavor and deep aroma. Try it in a melon and feta cheese salad, garnish with fresh basil; balls drizzled with port in cocktail glasses make a stunning and delicious appetizer.

Galia - Smooth, flavorful flesh, ranging from cream to pale green in color. Halve it, remove seeds, cut balls from the flesh, douse them in light syrup made with a little water, sugar and orange flavored liquor -or your favorite liquor- water, sugar and orange juice -or pineapple juice- if kids are present or you want it lighter, and stuff again the empty melon halves.

Honeydew - Firm, creamy white flesh within a thick yellow, slightly grooved skin; juicy and very refreshing on its own. Great shaped in round balls and mixed with berries in a melon-berry fruit salad. Prepare melon and grape fruit salad with melon balls and seedless white grapes, peeled, mix with lemon juice, sprinkle with sugar to taste -and a little liquor, when adults need a festive touch- serve in the empty shell.

Piel de sapo - Rough, green skin with darker green spots -reminiscent of toad skin- covering a creamy, incredibly sweet flesh. Perfect diced and chilled. If you are looking for something a little more chic, blend diced melon with a little sweet sherry and lemon juice, chill and serve in small cups with a drizzle of lemon-scented olive oil or try melon and Serrano soup.

Watermelon - extra sweet and extra juicy red flesh and a smooth skin, dark green in color or light green with darker green lines. It is not exactly the same type of melon. Seeds are scattered within the flesh. There are more convenient seedless varieties, unhappily, their flavor does not compare to the traditional watermelon.

How to handle melon

Choose a melon that feels heavy and with a firm, unblemished skin - meaning a fruit handled with care and with no bumps. Piel de sapo and honeydew melons sometimes present light brown, more rugged lines on their skin, don't judge on appearance and try. These scar-like lines usually mean the fruit was bursting with sugar to the point of of stretching the skin and it is extra sweet. If the melon is ripe, it should have a strong aroma, sound gently hollow when knocked lightly and yield a little when pressed on both ends.

Keep it in the fridge whole for up to a week; diced or sliced, it will keep fresh for 24 hours. If cut melon pieces are not placed in a tight container or covered with film, their penetrating aroma will permeate the rest of the food in the refrigerator.

Cut

1 For a small melon - Charentais or Cantaloupe - halve it from the stem end; for a larger melon with harder skin - honeydew or piel de sapo - cut first a small cap from both ends, then halve along.

2 Remove the seeds with a spoon - a fork is more convenient for watermelon, and the seeds easier to remove once diced or sliced.

3 Use a melon baller to scoop balls from the flesh for fruit salads. Alternatively, cut thick slices and remove the skin; serve melon slices as they are or cut them into 3/4-inch pieces.

4 Serve chilled and savor the summer.

Be Fancy

When your creative energy is bubbling, you can:

  • Halve, cut a small cap on each end to help the half melon stan, cut the edge in a serrated shape.
  • Cut a small slice on one end to make a stand, a large one on the other to make a cover, scoop the flesh with your melon baler and serve it inside of this basket with a lid.
  • A small slice cut on one end will make a stand; two vertical cuts both sides of the stem - leaving a 1/2 or 3/4 inch band in between - up to half height will make a holder; two horizontal cuts deep enough to reach the vertical ones and those two sections removed will give you a shape very close to an open basket. Use a knife to separate the flesh under the holder piece, remove seeds with a spoon, scoop the flesh with your melon baller, place the balls inside again and chill. Stunning.

Is melon good for you?

A serving of melon is 1 cup of diced melon or melon balls - about 177g or 6oz. A serving of melon is:

  • low in calories - around 58 to 65 calories, depending on the variety
  • virtually fat free, only 2-3 calories from fat
  • rich in vitamin C, from 53% RDA for honeydew melon to 108% RDA in the case of cantaloupe
  • good source of vitamin A, 2% RDA in the case of honeydew melon, or a very good source, 120% RDA for the orange fleshed varieties
  • source of iron, about 2% RDA and calcium, about 1-2% RDA
  • very good source of potassium, about 12-14% RDA
  • melons also bring vitamins or the B group, especially vitamin B6 and folate, into the nutritional equation.

Preserving Melon

Choose a melon, wash, halve, scoop seeds out and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices. Alternate melon slices and layers of sugar in a glass canning jar - 1 lb sugar per 1 1/4 lb flesh - sprinkling some lemon juice and few fresh lemon verbain leaves now and then. Close the jars tight and process them in a boiling-water canner for 20 minute, or use your pressure canner. It will keep for up to 6 months.

Tips to Serve Melon

The best way to serve ripe melon is on its own, diced and chilled, or in simple fruit salads. Not so sweet melons gain flavor when lightly seasoned with salt -that is why sliced melon and Serrano or prosciutto is such a classic appetizer. Alternatively, serve it with lemon wedges; lemon juice can revive an unripe or tasteless melon - try this with oranges.

The smaller French varieties can be halved, seeds removed and eaten with a spoon. It is fine to sprinkle some sugar if they turned not to be as sweet as expected; if not, serve vanilla flavored syrup on the side.

For a quick watermelon cooling dessert, remove skin and seed, chop finely, mix with 1/2tsp ground cinnamon and brown sugar to taste, place in glass cups and chill for 1 hour.

If your gourmet vein strikes, do things as chilled melon soufflé, chocolate and melon mousse, melon risotto with brandy, fried melon balls, a proper watermelon sorbet, even watermelon and vodka sorbet. These are suggestions and forgive us for not handling the recipes; they are as unnecessary as nice. Ripe melon, ice-cold, is the perfect way to savor the summer, anything else is overdoing it.

A twist on the melon with ham appetizer, try melon jelly served with Spanish Serrano ham.

Nutritional advantage

Ideally refreshing in hot days because melons are mostly water -about 91% in the case of watermelon- however, they help to eliminate liquids quenching your thirst without bloating.

Melons also help to prevent bloating because of their fiber content. They have a mild laxative effect, in fact, avoided if seasoned with salt and pepper.

Help to combat the effects of rheumatism because of their content in salicylic acid.

Good in weight loss diets because melons are low in calories and virtually fat free.

Although their amino acid content is extremely low, if combined with cheese or banana, or eating lima beans in the same meal, may turn out a more complete protein. This improves quality in a vegetarian diet -and other diets limiting types of food.