From how to choose the best, to using melons in summer-fresh recipes
August 04, 2010
1 of 14Photo: 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.
2 of 14Photo: 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.
3 of 14Photo: 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.
4 of 14Photo: 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
8 of 14Photo: 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.
9 of 14Photo: 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.)
10 of 14Photo: Randy Mayor
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.
11 of 14Photo: 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.
12 of 14Photo: Douglas Mirriam
Olives and feta cheese provide a briny counterpoint to the sweet watermelon. Try serving this savory salad on a bed of greens.
13 of 14Photo: 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.
14 of 14Stephanie Frey
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.