All About Melons

From how to choose the best, to using melons in summer-fresh recipes

Melon Couche

Photo: Wendy Connett/Flickr/Getty Images

How to choose a ripe melon

Want to choose the best? Look for a symmetrical melon heavy for its size and free of blemishes or soft spots. Roll it around and check for the couche (the spot where it rested on the ground while growing). It should be readily identifiable. Don't see one? The melon's not yet mature. Last, find the spot where the stem was attached. Clean indentations should appear on melons that detached naturally from the vine, like watermelons.

Watch the Video: Season's Best: Watermelon

Storing watermelons

Photo: Randy Mayor

Store watermelon to bring out its best

Watermelons don't ripen after picking, but they do continue to develop nutrients. Lycopene and beta-carotene—plant nutrients thought to benefit human health—increase in a whole melon stored at room temperature. One cup already contains more of both than a medium-sized tomato.

Melon ice cubes add a splash of color

Photo: Randy Mayor

Melon ice cubes add a splash of color

Once cut, fresh melons only last a day or two, so if you won't finish a big one before it spoils, puree seeded chunks in a blender or food processor. Pour mixture into ice-cube trays, and freeze until solid. Use the cubes to dress up lemonade, or try our favorite pairing: watermelon ice cubes in a minty-fresh mojito.

Mini-Watermelons

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Try fridge-friendly sizes

No room for a 20-pound watermelon? Pureheart and Sugar Baby are crossbred micromelons that grow to the size of a cantaloupe or smaller. Flavor can vary and depends largely on proper harvesting, so buy from someone you trust.

Is it a cantaloupe or a muskmelon?

Is it a cantaloupe or a muskmelon?

It's both. The names are used interchangeably; it has khaki-colored netted rind and pale-orange flesh. Muskmelon is also a category, though, which include cantaloupes, melons with netted rinds, and some smooth-skinned melons, like honeydew.

How some watermelons got seedless

How some watermelons got seedless

Selective breeding yielded fruit whose seeds produce seedless fruit—an evolutionary dead end but a great time-saver in the kitchen. Look for varieties like Ruby Bliss, Crimson Trio, and Summer Sweet. Not favored by backyard seed-spitters.

Galia Melon

Four other melons worth the cut

1. Crenshaw: Salmon-pink flesh yields a sweet, rich taste and slightly spicy aroma. These melons are large, weighing up to 10 pounds. Peak season: August through September.

2. Galia (pictured): The light-green flesh inside this melon is sweeter than that of the American cantaloupe; it's often reserved for dessert. Peak season: May through August.

3. Sprite:  This grapefruit-sized melon has sweet, crisp ivory flesh, the taste of which contains hints of watermelon, honeydew, and pear—but much sweeter. Peak season: June and July.

4. Orange-Fleshed Honeydew: A luscious cross between cantaloupe and honeydew, with a slightly creamy flavor. Look for a smooth, whitish rind with a waxy texture. Peak season: May through August.

Trimming melons

Photo: Randy Mayor

An easier way to slice

Stand your melon up: It's much easier

Step 1: Place washed melon on a cutting board, and use a sharp, heavy knife to slice about one inch from the stem end to make a stable cutting surface.

Tip: Always rinse a melon before slicing. Melons are grown in dirt and frequently handled: They may look clean but can harbor bacteria on the skin—especially netted varieties like cantaloupe. Thoroughly rinse so you don't transfer bacteria to fruit when cutting.

How to Cut Melons

Photo: Randy Mayor

Stand it up

Step 2: Stand the melon up, cut side down, and vertically slice the melon in half. (At that point, remove and discard the seeds from cantaloupes.)

Slicing Melons

Photo: Randy Mayor

Slice

Step 3: Lay halves cut side down, and make 1-inch cuts through the melon. All cut melon should be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Easy summer melon salsa

Photo: Randy Mayor

Easy summer melon salsa

Mix 1/4 cup lime juice, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Add 3 cups diced seeded melon (use any ripe melon or combination of melons you like), 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, and 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced. Toss gently to combine; cover and chill until ready to serve.

Watermelon Salad Recipes

Photo: Douglas Mirriam

Watermelon Salad

Olives and feta cheese provide a briny counterpoint to the sweet watermelon. Try serving this savory salad on a bed of greens.

View Recipe: Watermelon Salad

Watermelon and Cucumber Tonic recipe

Photo: Randy Mayor

Watermelon and Cucumber Tonic

Gin and tonics are great, but they're a bit staid for a summer celebration. So, we added watermelon, lemon, cucumber, and mint to create this sweet, refreshing and gorgeously pink cocktail. It'll be a hit at any outdoor party, and you can always leave out the gin for a virgin version.

View Recipe: Watermelon and Cucumber Tonic

Watermelon Gazpacho Recipe

Photo: Karry Hosford

Watermelon Gazpacho recipe

Try using watermelon wherever you might use a tomato. For example, Watermelon Gazpacho pairs watermelon with traditional gazpacho elements such as cucumber, bell pepper, and onion in a sweet and savory chilled soup.

View Recipe: Watermelon Gazpacho

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