Nothing shouts summer like a thick slice of chilled melon!
There are hundreds of varieties of melon but some of the most common are watermelon (green skin and pink flesh with large black seeds), rock melon/cantaloupe (orange flesh with a rough skin resembling netting), and Prince melon (green/cream skin and green or orange flesh).
The way to check if a melon is ripe depends on the melon variety. Most melons will give slightly when pressed at the opposite end to the stalk but the rest should be firm with no signs of soft spots or mould. Some melons, such as rock melon, smell fragrant. Whole watermelons should sound hollow when you tap them.
Keep whole melons at room temperature for maximum flavour. Cut melon pieces should be stored in the fridge and well wrapped as their scent will taint other foods.
Orange-fleshed melons are a good source of carotenes which can be converted to vitamin A. The pink colour of watermelon flesh is due to lycopene, the same compound that makes tomatoes red. Melons are also a good source of vitamin C and some contain folate.
Melons are versatile and make a great snack or picnic food but have a wide range of both sweet and savoury uses:
- Serve rock melon slices draped in prosciutto for an easy appetiser.
- Try a refreshing and zingy salad of watermelon, feta cheese and mint dressed with olive oil and lime juice.
- Make melon salsa: combine chopped melon with red onion, chilli and mint. This is great with barbecued meats.
- For a colourful dessert combine strawberries, rock melon and watermelon. Serve with lemon yoghurt.
- Melons make great sorbets or granitas with different types/colours.
- Throw some watermelon on the barbecue… seriously! Heat a square on a grill pan with a light spray of olive oil. Once slightly cooked, serve it with crumbled reduced-fat feta, baby rocket and balsamic vinegar.
- Try this delicious recipe idea: Melon, mint and ginger cooler.
Did you know? Melons are in the same gourd family as squashes and cucumbers.