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#1050 - An Abundance of Melons
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August 7, 2012 #1050 An Abundance of Melons
One of the greatest thrills of the summer is to see the incredible variety of melons that are available to us here in Maryland. In particular, the Eastern Shore is prime melon country, and growers are constantly coming up with new varieties for our dining pleasure. So to help our listeners, here's a scorecard to keep track of what's out there.
First of all, the melon world is divided into muskmelons and watermelons. Muskmelons all have some sort of webbing growing across the skin. It may be very flat, or very pronounced. Also, in the interior of the melon there is a seed cavity. Watermelons are invariably smooth-skinned, and have seeds scattered throughout the flesh.
In Maryland we are encountering an enormous variety of new watermelons. The old "picnic" melon, huge, elongated and nearly too big for your fridge, is harder to find these days. Smaller "icebox" melons predominate, and many of them are "seedless." Of course they are nothing of the kind, but their seeds are tiny and soft and easily edible. Much smaller "personal" melons are available, good for splitting between two people, or one hungry guy.
To pick a ripe watermelon, look for deep green color and a darker, creamy patch on the bottom. Also, the melon should be heavy for its size.
When it comes to muskmelons, we are sitting pretty. The smallish round "cantaloupe" is actually a muskmelon, per se, and the larger version (tan, with ridges running top to bottom) is the real cantaloupe. The Athena melon is probably the best of these, and is usually available earlier in the summer. The Honeydew is a popular melon, whose flesh starts green, then ripens to creamy white. Look for melons that are tending toward yellow in the rind. The bright yellow Juan Canary has become a staple here, and is a flavorful melon. The orange fleshed Charentais melon is a pint-sized import from France. Many consider it the most flavorful of all melons. Finally, the small, oval Asian melon is catching on with its delicate mild flavor.
I buy melons according to darkness of skin, softness of the blossom end, and above all, aroma. You may need to let a melon ripen for a few days before you eat it. Do not put it in the fridge, as this will halt the process. Also, as soon as you cut it, it will not ripen further.