Melons come in all sizes and colors. Most of us are familiar with the ubiquitous watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe, but have you ever tried the more exotic Galia, Musk or Canary melons? Even the king of the melons, the ever popular watermelon, has more than 1,200 different cultivars that range in size, shape, flavor and color. This summer, try a new-to-you melon type or variety every week for the entire summer. Keep a list of your favorites, and next year you’ll know what specialty seeds to pick up to grow in your own garden!
No matter whether you try a new melon variety or stick to the classics, here are some tips on using and storing these delicious fruits.
1. Refrigerator Storage
When it comes to storing melons ripe from the garden, farmers market or grocery store, it’s generally best to store them in the fridge uncut or in pieces with the rind intact. If they fit in your crisper, put them there, as the higher humidity in that part of the fridge helps to stop them from drying out. If you use half a melon, place plastic wrap directly on the flesh of the other half of the melon and store in the fridge for two to three days.
2. Easy Freeze
To freeze extra melon, simply ball, cube or slice, and place the pieces on a baking sheet. Let the pieces freeze individually overnight and then move them all into a freezer zipper-topped plastic bag. Frozen melon is best enjoyed while still a little frosty and not completely thawed. Watermelon is the exception to this freezing method, as it will start to get mushy as soon as it comes out of the freezer. Enjoy frozen watermelon right away or plan on using it in summer soups or smoothies.
3. Melon Jam
Believe it or not, cantaloupe and other similar melons make excellent jam. The basic jam-making techniques apply when you combine fresh melon, sugar, powdered pectin and a few other ingredients, and the results are stunning. Just search the internet for a recipe or give this popular Salted Cantaloupe Jam recipe a try. I made it last year with great success.
4. Grilled To Perfection
Grills aren’t just for meat: Grilled melon is fabulous! The heat from the grill caramelizes the outer sugars of the melon, transforming it into something truly unique and delicious. Watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon types all work great! Cut your melon into large wedges about 2 inches thick, leaving the rind attached. Place wedges flesh side down on a very hot grill. Let them cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until you can see char-marks on the flesh and you start to pick up their sweet aroma. If you want them extra sweet, sprinkle both sides with a little brown sugar and a dash of sea salt before grilling. This makes an excellent side for grilled fish or chicken.
5. Pickled Melon
Watermelon rinds are popular for pickling, but you can also pickle cantaloupe and honeydew flesh. Add 2 cups cubed cantaloupe and/or honeydew flesh (small pieces), 1/4 small red onion (very thinly sliced), 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar and 1 tablespoon sugar to a medium saucepan. Bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Chill before serving. Pickled melon is fabulous on top of grilled pork chops and grilled lamb burgers.
6. Simple Granita
Turn watermelon into a simple, stunning dessert by making granita. Granita is a light and fluffy ice treat made from fruit, and you don’t need special equipment or churns to enjoy it. Add 4 cups seedless watermelon, 1/2 cup sugar and the juice of one lime to a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a metal baking pan and freeze for one hour. Stir with a fork, mashing any chunks of ice. Freeze for 2 more hours, and scrape with a fork to make fluffy ice crystals. Serve immediately or return it to the freezer, covered with foil, and scrape again before you’re ready to serve. You can make granita up to three days in advance.
7. Melon Salsa
Most of us have tried peach or mango salsa, and the same idea applies to melons. The sweet and spicy combination is delicious with just chips or on top of a bed of greens with grilled shrimp. Chopped melon with a little chopped cucumber, hot pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste is as simple as it is delicious. Perfect your own recipe and become famous for it in your neighborhood dinner circle.