Melons, a summertime favorite, come in many shapes, sizes and colors and offer varying tastes to accommodate many moods and uses.
Cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon are the best-known melons, but don’t forget about crenshaw, canary, casaba or Christmas varieties.
Choose melons that are heavy for their size. Melons should have a sweet and fruity fragrance and give to gentle pressure at the blossom end. Avoid those with soft spots, cracks, bruises or dents in the rind. A strong aroma can be an indication the melon is overly ripe.
Melons that are not ripe can be stored at room temperature for two to three days. Ripe melons can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Once the melon is cut, it should be wrapped in plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container, refrigerated and used within two to three days.
Melons are low in calories and sodium and are fat-free. Most range from about 11 to 15 grams of carbohydrates for one cup diced. Melons vary in nutrient content according to the specific variety but in general are a good source of potassium, contain vitamin C and various phytonutrients.
All melons should be washed carefully before cutting. Slicing through an unwashed rind of a melon can carry bacteria from the surface to the inside that is eaten. Wash melons under plenty of cold running water and scrub with a clean brush. Slice with a clean knife on a clean cutting board. Any countertop or utensil that comes in contact with a melon before it is cleaned should be washed thoroughly with hot soapy water and rinsed to prevent possible contamination of other foods.
Melons can be served from the beginning of a meal to the end and anytime for a snack. They are wonderful appetizers as a melon soup or tiny kabobs. Diced melon or in combination with other fruits makes a wonderful fruit salad. Of course, a wedge of any melon makes a great dessert or snack.
Creative serving ideas
Melons are wonderful served solo. But there are many fun ideas for creatively serving them. You don’t need a recipe, just a few simple guidelines. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Melon bouquet: For a creative flourish, make a melon bouquet. It is easiest to use a watermelon or other large melon that has a lot of sliceable flesh. Cut the end off of the melon and then cut one slice about 1/2-inch thick. Place the slice on a clean cutting board and get out cookie-cutters to create fun melon shapes. The cookie-cutters need to be as thick or thicker from the cutting edge to the top than the thickness of the melon slice. I used heart, star and clover cookie cutters for my bouquet. Start using the larger cookie cutters and cut melon shapes by pressing cutter firmly into the melon slice. You can use several types of melons.
For variety, create the base with citrus by slicing the bottom off an orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime depending on the size of your bouquet and the color you prefer. Position citrus with the cut side down. Using wooden disposable skewers, pierce each melon shape, starting at the bottom of the shape and inserting into but not all the way through the top of the shape. Stick the other end of the skewer into the fruit base. Secure the largest melon shapes first and then fill in with the smaller shapes. Break some of the wooden skewers, creating different lengths, so the “stems” of the shapes will vary.
Cutouts: Cut a 1/2- to 1-inch slice of watermelon and cut out a heart shape using a large heart-shape cookie cutter. Pierce a long wooden skewer in the bottom of the heart to one side of the point up toward the top of the heart but not all the way through. Place the skewer in a bud vase filled with water. These can be used in place of a flower at a breakfast or brunch place setting or to decorate a brunch table.
Appetizing salad: Make a beautiful appetizer or salad by cutting a thin watermelon slice into squares, triangles or using a cookie cutter for a more creative shape. Each slice should be about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. I used an oval cookie cutter with a scalloped edge. Arrange slices attractively on a saucer and sprinkle lightly with crumbled feta cheese. Garnish with a mint sprig in the center.
Berry fresh topping: Another idea is to arrange several slices of a yellow, orange or light green melon on a saucer. Cantaloupe or honeydew work well for this. Take several fresh washed and stemmed strawberries and puree in a blender. Drizzle over melon slices and serve.
A spot of blue: Arrange three small watermelon wedges, with the rind removed, on a saucer. Spoon a few fresh blueberries on top of the wedges. You may need to press them slightly into the melon slices to keep them from rolling off. Place a dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt in the center to garnish.
Becky Varner will teach the “ABC’s of What You Eat: Melons” at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Buy for Less at 3501 Northwest Expressway, and at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Buy for Less at 10011 SE 15 in Midwest City.
Class sizes are limited. For reservations, call 302-6273, ext. 332.