Nothing says summer quite like a slice of juicy watermelon or fragrant melon. As temperatures rise here are a few tips on selecting, storing and preparing melons with recipe ideas for everything from drinks to desserts.
PEAK MELON SEASON: June through September
FINDING AND SELECTING A RIPE MELON:
The best method for choosing a ripe melon is to ask your produce manager or farmer’s market vendor to taste a piece. Many stores and markets will cut open a melon for you to see and taste if you ask. While honeydew and cantaloupe are easy to find in the produce section of your local market, don’t forget to check out local farmers' market for a larger selection of different and less common melon varieties.
- Watermelons: Look for a watermelon with a field patch (a large yellow spot on the underside where the melon sat on the ground) which indicates it was left on the vine to ripen in the sun sufficiently. It should feel heavy for its size with no soft spots or bruises.
- Muskmelons and Cantaloupe: With muskmelons and cantaloupe, the best indicator of ripeness is smell; they should have an intense sweet, almost floral perfume. The rind should have a golden not green hue and yield slightly to pressure.
- Honeydew: Honeydew melons are harder to choose because they lack the telltale perfume of muskmelons. The best indicator is weight and color; a ripe honeydew melon should be pale yellow with a smooth rind and heavy for its size.
HOW TO STORE MELONS: Keep melons out on the counter until you are ready to eat them, as it’s best not to refrigerate them unless fully ripe or cut. Uncut melons last much longer than those stored in the fridge and should last two weeks on your counter in a cool spot away from sunlight or direct heat. If you like your melon chilled, refrigerate them overnight or for a few hours just before serving. Be sure to thoroughly wash the outside of melons before cutting into it to avoid spreading any potential bacteria. Cut melon should be wrapped tightly or placed in an airtight container and refrigerated immediately.
HOW TO PREPARE (Recipe Ideas):
- Start your day with a Minty Melon Smoothie from Queen of Quinoa or a Sweet Honeydew Smoothie from Family Fresh Cooking
- Quench your thirst with my Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade or a glass of Watermelon Agua Fresca from Simple Bites.
- Say cheers with a Watermelon Margarita from A Teaspoon of Spice or a Cantaloupe Mojito from EA Stewart.
- For a non-alcoholic sipper try a Cantaloupe Lime and Mint Slushy from Sips and Spoonfuls.
- How to turn your watermelon into a drink dispenser over at Brit.Co.
- Serve this Chilled Cantaloupe Soup from The Healthy Foodie on a warm summer evening.
- These bite sized Watermelon Cantaloupe and Halloumi Skewers from Wandering Spice make a great appetizer.
- Joanne stacks cubes of watermelon with goat cheese and pistachios
- Jessica makes a minty salsa with cantaloupe and honeydew.
- Try adding sumac and ricotta salata to watermelon for an unexpected twist like this salad from Turntable Kitchen.
- Tomatoes and feta also pair perfectly with cubes of watermelon.
- Greg serves his Watermelon Wedge Salad with a tangy buttermilk dressing.
- Kim finds out that watermelon makes a great base for a vinaigrette as well.
- Katrina makes Fresh Fruit and Yogurt “cupcakes” from slices of watermelon topped with frozen yogurt.
- Fill empty watermelon shells with three layers of sorbet for an easy and impressive dessert like Naomi from Bakers Royale does.
- Mike turns his watermelon into a gingery granita.
- Honey Dew Popsicles from Pass the Sushi make a refreshing treat.
- For a boozy version try these Watermelon Mojito Popsicles from Boulder Locavore.
- Infuse cantaloupe slices with white tea and serve them with frozen yogurt.
- Did you know you could dry watermelon in the dehydrator or make a watermelon cake with fresh watermelon and frost it with coconut cream and fresh fruit and nuts?
How do you like to enjoy melons?
Sylvie Shirazi is the recipe developer and food photographer behind Gourmande in the Kitchen. For the last 10 years she's been making eating more healthfully easy and accessible with gluten-free, grain-free, paleo and vegan recipes that are free from processed ingredients.