Photo by Thinkstock/leekris
Melon varieties abound, but the sweet cantaloupe, a member of the muskmelon family, is one of the most familiar. It's time, however, to get it off the breakfast table. Not only does a perfumed bite of juicy cantaloupe taste like summer, it's high in vitamin A, vitamin B and potassium and is a good source of folate and fiber.
The first melons were probably grown in the Middle East, but records confirm they were grown by the Romans and by the Egyptians in the Nile River valley. In the Middle Ages, they were introduced by the Moors to Spain and became popular in the 15th century in Europe. Christopher Columbus brought melon seeds with him, and from there, they spread throughout the Americas.
How to Prepare
Make sure you scrub your melon well with soap and water when you get home, because its webbed skin can harbor salmonella. Besides simple slices at breakfast, try smoothies. Chefs are pickling the rind (similar to the way your grandmother pickled watermelon rind); melon agua fresca is a popular Latin American summertime drink; and a classic combo that makes a great appetizer is a piece of cantaloupe wrapped in a slice of flavorful Spanish jamón.
What to Buy
Thumping isn't your best guide. To find a ripe melon, hold it to your nose and take a big whiff. Does it smell like a melon? Then you know that you've got a ripe one. Double-check by pressing on the stem-end. It should give slightly under gentle pressure.
Recipe: Cantaloupe Ginger Ice-Pops
Makes about 20 pops
Paul Cassimus, the King of Pops, shares one of his frosty treats for a hot afternoon.
- 2 ripe cantaloupes
- Splash of ginger juice (available at Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market)
- Splash of lime juice
- 1/2 cup of agave
- Pinch of sea salt
Halve the cantaloupes and scoop out the seeds with a large spoon. Cut off the rinds and roughly dice the fruit. Place in a blender and purée. Measure out 2 1/2 quarts, pour the purée back into the blender and add the ginger juice, lime juice, agave and salt. Blend well. Taste and add a little more ginger and lime juice, if you think it needs it. Pour into the molds and freeze for 6 to 8 hours. To get the pops out of the molds, dunk them gently into lukewarm water and pull by the stick. Don't leave the molds in water for too long or the pops will melt!