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Maryland Melons

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Fatuma Mugoya / PerennialsPhotos via Flickr (CREATIVE COMMONS BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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Very few things make me as happy as a fresh, chilled Maryland melon. To me it's the perfect way to start the day or to ward off the heat of mid-summer. Chef Jerry Pellegrino shares my enthusiasm, and is delighted by the sheer number of varieties of melons we have here.

 

To be clear we have to distinguish between "muskmelons" and "cantaloupes". The muskmelon is the overall family of melons, and the cantaloupe is just one variety in that family. Other members include the Juan Canary, the honeydew, the Santa Claus and the Persian melons.

The Eastern Shore of Maryland is practically heaven for melon growers. The sandy soil, the warm temperatures, the plentiful rain all contribute to something like ideal growing conditions. The standard Maryland cantaloupe is a variation of the North American cantaloupe, the standard of the type. Thousands of Eastern Shore farmers have made a handsome living growing these melons, and we consumers have made them an important part of our summer culture.

There are however many other melons that Jerry has become fond of. Here are four of them.

 

Our classic summer melon is officially known as the Eastern Shore cantaloupe. It's a medium sized melon, with a tan skin with pronounced webbing and slight longitudinal grooves. The flesh is pale to medium orange, and is mild in flavor.

One historical melon that you will see in old vegetable still life paintings is the Anne Arundel melon. It is a large pale green melon that turns yellow with ripeness, with ridges, light webbing and green flesh that turns orange from the center out as it ripens. It is a very sweet melon, and it is still grown in its namesake county. A very old cross, the Anne Arundel dates back to colonial times and it was a favorite subject of painters.

The green climbing melon is exactly what it sounds like. It is a vigorous climber and does well with backyard trellises or fences. The melon is a little bit bigger than a softball and is green in color. The skin is thick and tough, but the light green flesh is very sweet and juicy. Unlike nearly every other melon, this one keeps. Pick before the first frost and it will be available for Christmas.

The Hackensack melon, which does come from New Jersey is a large deeply ribbed melon with tan netted skin. The fruit is pale green and deeply flavored. This is regarded as one of the best "market melons" since it keep very well during shipping and is not prone to rotting. It makes frequent appearances in the mid-Atlantic and is fairly easy to find.

Here are a few recipes for melons that Jerry came up with.

Eastern Shore Cantaloupe & Prosecco Fruit Salad

1 Eastern Shore Cantaloupe, cut in half, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

10 basil leaves cut into thin threads

½ cup pickled red onions (optional)

Salt and crushed red pepper to taste

1 bottle of Prosecco

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and serve immediately!

 

Anne Arundel Melon, Arugula, Pecans, Ricotta & Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

1 Anne Arundel Melon, cut in half, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup fresh baby arugula

¼ cup pecans, roughly chopped

½ cup fresh ricotta

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette, see below

Toss the melon, baby arugula and pecans together in a bowl. Add ¼ cup of honey vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper and toss until coated. You can add more dressing if you would like. Place the salad on a platter and dollop the fresh ricotta over the salad. 

 

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup grapeseed oil (or other mild tasting oil such as coconut oil)

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

2 tablespoons honey

Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

Add the apple cider vinegar, honey and the mustard to the bowl of a food processor fitted with chopping blade. Season with salt & pepper and pulse a few times to combine. Turn on the processor and slowly add the oil in a steady stream through the lid. When all the oil has been added turn off the machine. Transfer the vinaigrette to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator. 

Caprese with Canary Melon, Prosciutto and Lemon Zest

4 roma tomatoes, sliced

1 canary melon, cut into slices and rind removed

4 oz. Prosciutto, thinly sliced

1 large lemon

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced

10 fresh basil leaves cut into thin strips

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Artfully arrange the tomatoes, canary melon, prosciutto and mozzarella on a platter. Sprinkle the basil over the salad. Using a zester, zest the lemon directly onto the salad. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt. Serve immediately.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.