Enjoy a refreshing melon season

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 24, 2018

By Deirdre Parker Smith


Melon sort of screams summer, the lush ripeness of cantaloupe and watermelon. They’re best served cold, and are refreshing just as they are.

But every year, everywhere, people wonder, “How do I pick a ripe melon?”

Here are some tips:

Cantaloupe — the stem end of the cantaloupe should not have a stem attached.  Check for tears around the stem end, meaning it might have been taken too early. Conversely, if the stem end is soft or moist, the melon is too ripe.

The netting on the melon should be thick and well defined, with some thicker areas on the skin.

If the base is green, it’s not ripe.

A good cantaloupe should be heavy for its size, and the blossom end should yield a bit when pressed.

Use your nose. Smell the blossom end, take a deep smell. It should smell like a sweet, ripe cantaloupe.

Watermelon — A watermelon needs close examination.

Look for the spot where the watermelon rested on the ground. It should be yellow-white, cream yellow or yellow. If it’s just white, it’s not ripe.

Yes, you can thump a watermelon. It should sound hollow. An unripe melon will just thud. But the melon could also be overripe if it sounds too hollow. Don’t rely on the thump, especially if you’re not sure the difference between a thud and a hollow sound. Look for the yellow-ish patch on the underside.

Cantaloupes can give a different flavor to a smoothie. Try adding bananas and a little peanut butter with the cantaloupe. Orange juice and cantaloupe go well together, and mango is a nice addition. A little lemon juice can brighten it up. You can also use a little plain yogurt. Add a touch of ginger, and you’ve got something totally new.

In Mexico, agua fresca is basically fresh fruit water. In involves pureeing and straining things like cantaloupe and watermelon. Do a combo of the two and add a little lime juice. Ultra-refreshing.

Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Salad

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. lemon juice (freshly squeezed)

1 tsp. honey

1 Tbsp. mint (freshly chopped)

1 cantaloupe (medium, peeled)

6 mozzarella balls  (quartered)

4 ounces prosciutto 

In the bottom of a large mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, honey, mint and season with salt and pepper.

Using your favorite spiralizing tool, scrape the seeds out of the cantaloup and process through the spiralizer. If you don’t have a spiralizer, cube the cantaloupe or use a melon baller.

Add the cantaloupe to the bowl with the mozzarella and toss well to combine. Place the cantaloupe and cheese on a platter and sprinkle over the prosciutto.

Watermelon and Tomatillo Salad

3 cups watermelon (rind and seeds removed, chopped bite size)

1/4 cup blueberries 

1 cup tomatillos (chopped bite size)

1 shallot (finely chopped)

12 mint leaves (shredded)

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

salt (to taste)

Add watermelon, blueberries, shallot and tomatillos to a bowl and gently toss. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar and toss again. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with mint.

— Pickled Plum

Watermelon Agua Fresca

1/2 a seedless watermelon

2 cups cold water

1/2 cup white sugar, or to taste

1/2 cup water

Scoop flesh from watermelon and transfer to a blender. Add 2 cups cold water. Place a folded towel on blender lid and blend until liquefied, about 1 minute. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl to remove fibers. Discard fibers.

Place sugar and 1/2 cup water into a saucepan over medium heat and stir until water is hot and sugar has dissolved. Turn off heat and let simple syrup cool to room temperature. Stir simple syrup into watermelon juice to taste.

Pour into a 2-quart pitcher and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. To serve, fill tall glasses with ice cubes and pour agua fresca over ice.

For a variation, add some fresh mint.

This basic recipe can also be used with cantaloupe.

Melon and Olive Mini Skewers with Black Pepper Honey

Black Pepper Herb Honey:

3/4 cup honey

2 tsp. freshly ground coarse black pepper

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 medium sprigs fresh rosemary


1/2 large or 1 small cantaloupe, seeded and peeled

1 (7 oz.) can jumbo pitted green olives, rinsed and drained

1 (8 oz.) container bite-size fresh mozzarella balls, drained and patted dry

2 cups small fresh basil leaves

For the honey: Stir together the honey, 1/4 cup water, the pepper, thyme and rosemary in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly. Strain honey into a small bowl and set aside while you assemble the skewers.

For the skewers: Using a melon baller, scoop out 24 rounds from the peeled melon. Thread each skewer with a melon ball, basil leaf, mozzarella ball, another basil leaf and an olive. To serve, place the skewers on a platter and drizzle with the honey.

— Giada di Laurentiis

Melon Cocktail

2/3 cup diced cantaloupe

1/4 cup apple cider

1 lemon

Kosher salt

1 tsp. honey, or to taste

6 ounces neutral gin

Lemon wedges and melon balls, for garnish

Puree the cantaloupe with the cider, the juice of half the lemon and a pinch of salt in a blender on low speed. Keeping it on low will avoid adding unnecessary air to the mix. Add water if the blender has trouble with the cantaloupe. If the melon lacks sweetness, add honey to taste. Refrigerate until ready to make the drinks.

Put half each of the melon puree and gin and 1 more tablespoon of lemon juice in a shaker (or any container with a fitted lid) with a few ice cubes and shake until blended and cold. Strain into two chilled glasses. Rub the rim of each glass with the lemon wedge, for added acidity. Repeat to make two more drinks. Garnish with melon balls.

— Food Network