It’s a good idea to make the most out of melon season

Melons begin to ripen in mid-August. Most people eat them simply sliced and as a snack or dessert. However, they deserve more credit. They are a good source of fibre and fill you up quickly. Melons have high nutritional value. They are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamins of the B group, and minerals such as manganese, iron and phosphorus. They are anti-oxidant rich.

They are also rich in potassium, a nutrient that may help control blood pressure, regulate heartbeat, and possibly prevent strokes.

Cantaloupe does not ripen after it is picked, so once it is removed from the vine it will not sweeten any further. Honeydew is one of the few melons that continue to ripen once picked.

To pick the perfect watermelon, flip it over to make sure that the underside has a creamy yellow spot from sitting on the ground to ripen in the sun.

Choose melons that do not have cracks, soft spots or dark bruises. You should look for a clean and smooth break at the stem and most mature melons have a fruity fragrance, if not chilled.

Keep uncut melons at room temperature for two to four days or until fully ripe, then refrigerate for up to five days. Refrigerate cut-up melon in a covered container up to three days. Cut melons are aromatic and their flavour will be transferred to other foods.

Melon preparation is easy. Always wash melons in warm soapy water before cutting to get rid of any impurity on the rind that might be carried from the knife blade to the flesh.

Cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Melons can be cut into halves, quarters, wedges, cubes or scooped into balls with a melon baller. Most melons will benefit from a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to enhance the flavour and are best served at room temperature.

Summer minty melon salad

  • 4 c. watermelon, peeled and cut into chunks 1 L
  • 4 c. cantaloupe, peeled and cut into chunks 1 L
  • 4 c. honeydew melon, peeled and cut into chunks 1 L
  • 1/2 c. mild flavoured honey 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. fresh lime juice 60 mL
  • 1 tsp. grated lime zest 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 2 mL
  • 2 tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped 30 mL

Mix the honey and lime juice in a small bowl until well blended. Stir in the lime zest.

Place the cut-up melons in a large bowl and toss with the honey lime dressing. Toss to coat the melons. Place the salad in your serving dish and sprinkle the salt and mint over top.

Cantaloupe Lassi

This is a great way to use leftover melons. Cut into smallish pieces and freeze. Take out of the freezer as needed and make this healthy and delicious drink. Any variety of melon can be used.

  • 2 c. frozen cubed cantaloupe 500 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. plain full fat yogurt 375 mL
  • 2 tbsp. honey 30 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom 1 mL
  • 1 c. ice cubes 250 mL
  • pinch of saffron threads for garnish, optional
  • pinch of ground cardamom for garnish, optional

Place all of the ingredients except the saffron and additional cardamom in a high speed blender and puree until smooth and frothy. Taste and adjust cardamom and honey as needed.

Pour into glasses and garnish with saffron threads and additional cardamom.

Melon ice candy

  • 1 melon, peeled, deseeded, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 c. sugar 60 mL
  • 1 c. water, or as needed 250 mL
  • Freezie-pop bags or ice cube trays

Puree melon chunks, sugar and water in a blender.

Using a funnel and a 1/3 cup (75 mL) measuring cup, fill each Freezie- pop bag with the melon mixture. Twist and tie to seal. Repeat with remaining mixture. Stand in a tall jar or pitcher.

Place in freezer, and freeze overnight or at least six hours. Pack in ice with salt until ready to eat. The mixture can also be frozen in ice cube trays.

Cantaloupe with honey yogurt and pistachios

This is a simple and healthy breakfast. Pistachios taste great with cantaloupe but any nuts can be used.

  • 3/4 c. plain Greek yogurt 175 mL
  • 1 tsp. honey 5 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract 1 mL
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 medium cantaloupe, seeds removed
  • 1/4 c. pistachios, roughly chopped 60 mL

In a bowl, stir together yogurt, honey, vanilla and cinnamon.

Spoon yogurt mixture into cantaloupe. Top with pistachios.

Melon and prosciutto tartines

  • 6 oz. goat cheese, softened 170 g
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 2 mL
  • 6 1/2 inch thick slices of baguette 1.25 cm
  • 6 thin slices prosciutto
  • 2 c. shaved or thinly sliced melon 500 mL
  • 2 tbsp. thinly sliced chiles, optional 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. honey 30 mL
  • Fresh mint leaves

Combine goat cheese, lemon rind, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Slice melon thinly using a mandolin, if you have one.

Cut larger melons into quarters, remove seeds and leave the skin on. It will slice much more thinly if the skin is left on. Remove skin after they are thinly sliced.

Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Grill bread slices until nicely toasted, about one to two minutes per side. Top bread evenly with a spread of goat cheese and then top with prosciutto, melon and chiles.

Drizzle with honey and garnish with mint leaves and additional salt, if desired.

Other ideas for using melons

Make melon boats — scoop out melon balls and refill shell.

For appetizers, wrap melon wedges or cubes with thinly sliced prosciutto ham.

Season melon with lemon or lime juice or cayenne pepper.

For dessert, serve melon with vanilla ice cream. Drizzle melon cubes with non-alcoholic syrups like hazelnut or orange.

Dice melons to make great fruit salsas.

Mix melons with chicken or seafood salad.

Make quick melon kebobs. Thread different melon varieties on a skewer for a colorful treat.

Puree with strawberries and water to make a refreshing agua fresca.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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