Sunday Food: Melon
(Pictures courtesy of artist in doing nothing at flickr.com.)
This being July, the garden is producing its ultimate rewards. Last week the beans were picked, blanched and frozen – what we didn’t munch all happily. The zucchini is going gangbusters, and we’re searching for ways to use the monster zukes that are popping up all over. Now the big mounds of melons are beginning to show those forming sweet pods ripening.
Muskmelon (Cucumis melo) is a species of melon that has been developed into many cultivated varieties. These include smooth skinned varieties such as honeydew, crenshaw and casaba, and different netted cultivars (cantaloupe, Persian melon and Santa Claus or Christmas melon).
The melons here will be green and luscious, known as honeydew. One variety of these muskmelons is usually known as canteloupe, and is more orange. They are better in a more arid climate, but we get some good ones each season.
This fruit grows best in semiarid climates and is harvested based on maturity, not size. Maturity can be hard to judge, but is based upon ground color ranging from greenish white (immature) to creamy yellow (mature).Quality is also determined by the honeydew having a nearly spherical shape with a surface free of scars or defects. Also, a honeydew should feel heavy for its size and have a waxy (not fuzzy) surface.
Watermelons are a different variety and take long hot seasons, but all are good. Armenian Cucumber is a variant of the muskmelon, though we think of them as more veggie than fruit. The usual cucumber is actually a different species.
Melons take a large mound to produce long sticky vines, and their orange blossoms that look like zucchini flowers. Because there isn’t much return on the space they take up, usually only a large garden space makes it worthwhile to grow them at all.
The melons here are tolerant of a lot of rain, and resistant, but there’s a high incidence of rot if they’re not picked when they’re just ripe enough. I test them by thumping, and a hollow sound is good.
Enjoy the melons as they are, or add some ice cream if you like. They’re about two weeks from ripe here, but farther south are at their peak.