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July, 2008

Cantaloupe
While there are a few varieties of melons that are now available year-round, summertime still brings the best selection and peak of sweetness for this fruit. Starting in May and continuing through September, Melissa’s carries some thirty different varieties of melons, which come in all sorts of interesting shapes, sizes, colors and tastes. Melons are in the same gourd family as squashes, cucumbers and pumpkins. In fact, they have a very similar structure to squash with thick flesh and an inner seed-filled cavity. So what’s the difference between melons and squashes? It’s really the way that they’re used. Squashes are considered vegetables and generally need cooking; while melons are usually consumed raw as fruits and are known for their sweet and juicy flavor.

Melons have a very high water content, which means they are also very low in calories. The more orange the flesh, the more carotenes the melon will contain. Our bodies convert carotenes into vitamin A, a nutrient essential for proper cell growth and reproduction as well as for good eyesight. What's more, new evidence further supports the value of carotenes as antioxidants that may reduce our risk of cancer, stroke, arteriosclerosis and cataracts. Melons fall into two main categories: summer melons, which include all those varieties with netted rinds, and winter melons that have a smooth or finely ridged outer skin. The netted varieties are also categorized as “dessert melons” because of their higher sugar content over the smoother varieties. This “dessert” taste reference was found several times while doing research for this article; however the smooth Sprite and Honeydew melons can be the embodiment of pure sweetness too, so don’t necessarily judge a melon by its cover!

Melons should be heavy for their size and give off a pleasant sweet aroma, but not smell too musky as this is a sign that they are overripe. The stalk end should give slightly to thumb pressure. Keep uncut melons at room temperature for two to four days or until fully ripe, then refrigerate for up to 5 days. Refrigerate cut melon in a covered container for up to 3 days. Remember that a cut melon is very aromatic and this odor can permeate other foods, so store in a sealed container.

Watermelon
Melons are delicious eaten by themselves or with other fruits in a salad. There is nothing like an icy cold melon on a summer’s day to cool things down in a very tasty way. For a real treat, cut a small summer melon (netted variety) in half, scoop out the seeds and fill the cavity with ice cream or sorbet (sugar-free of course), for a simple, healthy and wonderful taste combination. Watermelon and summer are almost interchangeable words. Melissa’s carries red, yellow, gold, seedless and mini watermelons. Using a melon baller, try combining them all in a bowl made of one watermelon half and then sprinkle with salt, black pepper or a squeeze of lemon or lime.

For the next few months take advantage of the many refreshing tastes and visually interesting options that our extensive collection of melon recipes can offer for your summer table.