27 Jul 2013 06.24 am by K. Daniel
In this article we will discuss the other melon group, the genus Cucumis which produces several well-known fruits such as muskmelons, cucumbers, horned melons, and cantaloupes, focusing on muskmelons. These include the commonly eaten cantaloupes, honeydew melons, and its variants. And so without further ado here are a few tips and tricks for picking out the best of the best.
LOOK at the skin and overall appearance of the melon; does it have a net-like pattern? Or is it smooth skinned? Muskmelons can be divided into these two categories based on their skin appearance. Both groups have varying colours based on the variety and crossbreeds, as well as how ripe the fruit is.
Netted varieties tend to be harvested when the ground colour of the fruit turns yellow however these mainly apply to lighter coloured varieties. Ripe fruits tend to be darker in coloration although there are exceptions, such as the butterscotch melon which becomes paler as it matures. This inconsistency means measuring ripeness through visual cues may cause some problems.
FEEL the fruit, smooth skinned varieties develop a smooth, waxy skin surface when ripe while under ripe fruits are slightly hairy to the touch. As with most other fruits, ripe products should feel heavy for its size. The blossom end of the fruit, which held the melon to the vine where it grew, will yield slightly when pressed.
Too much yield may mean the fruit is over ripe, whereas hard and solid fruits may require a few days until it becomes of peak eating quality.
SMELL the aroma of the fruit, and if it is ripe there should be a sweet, floral fragrance. This will also vary based on the variety, as some thick skinned melons such as Casaba will produce little to no smell. Most varieties however do produce a distinctly sweet fragrance, and as such this is one of the more reliable methods to measure eating quality.
LISTEN to the sound of the melon. Before you discount me to be some kind of nutter, I’m referring to tapping the melon. Ripe fruits are said to give a firm thud as opposed to the hollow sound of under ripe ones.
Shaking the melons and listening for a rattle is another indicator, as ripe fruits will have loose seeds due to the softening flesh, and as such produce more sounds than under ripe fruits.
Finally remember that what you actually do with the melon itself will also determine the type or degree of ripeness of your purchase. Ripe melons tend to be eaten as it is, either in a salad or as a dessert on its own where its aroma and flavour may complement accompanying foods. When prepared for other dishes however such as pickling or jams, the ripeness of the fruit may be less important.
Either way, the tools for a lifetime of eating better melons are in your hands (literally)!
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