How Sweet It Is

Summers were once marked by the appearance and the retreat of the big three: honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon. Now you can have a different melon every other day for a month without repeating, if you like.

Casaba, Canary, Santa Claus, honeydew, Charentais, Egusi. There is also winter melon, watermelon, bitter melon and Persian. And Hami, Kolkhoznitsa, Kiwano and Galia. In the cantaloupe look-alike category alone are several varieties, not to mention the many that, once you cut them open, masquerade as honeydews, each with the palest green flesh and the same flavor in varying strengths.

Summers were once marked by the appearance and the retreat of the big three: honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon. Now you can have a different melon every other day for a month without repeating, if you like. And there are so many ways to merge them into any course of a menu, from soup to port.

Just don’t mess with the melon. According to our in-house chef, J Frank, the less you do to the melon, the better. “Why distract from the natural flavor?” he asks. “Sometimes when you’re cooking, you want to add more dimensions to a dish by adding ingredients. Let fruit be what it is.”

All provided, of course, that you have the savvy to choose the right specimen. And on this, opinions are divided: To thump or to sniff? Chef Frank says either will do, although the thump method seems to be preferred by those who know. Lightly tap the melon, and when you hear a dull thud, it means the fruit is heavy with juicy pulp, so you can expect the richest color and flavor.

When it comes time to make the melon the star of a course, capture the essence of the fruit by keeping it simple so you can, as Chef Frank says, “let all the natural flavors shine through.”


Persian Melon Salad

1 to 2 cups red and white grapes

1 to 2 cups pineapple, cut into chunks

1 to 2 cups white peaches, cut into chunks

1 small cantaloupe, cut into chunks

1 small honeydew, cut into chunks

1 cup strawberries cut in half

2 tablespoons mint, chopped

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon rosewater (optional)

Mix all ingredients.

Serves 6

Melon Popsicles

1 melon of your choice, puréed

1 pint berries of your choice, puréed

lime juice to taste

Add lime juice to purées until desired taste is achieved. Fill six popsicle molds halfway with one purée and freeze for 30 minutes. Then fill molds with second purée and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Serves 6

Melon Martini

½ ounce Champagne

½ ounce triple sec

¾ ounce lime juice

3 ounces Van Gogh melon vodka

2 ounces honeydew or cantaloupe, puréed

Mix all in a shaker.

Serves 1

Crab Melon Soup

1 cantaloupe, puréed

1 honeydew, puréed

8 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat

With each purée in a separate container, simultaneously pour both into separate sides of a soup bowl. Top each of four bowls with 2 ounces crabmeat.

Serves 4

Cucumber Melon Salad

1 cucumber

¼ cup sliced red onion

1 ounce Chevretine (French feta)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Romaine leaves for garnish

Mix first four ingredients. Toss with olive oil. Garnish with Romaine leaves.

Serves 2


This article originally appeared in our Aug. 2013 issue.

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum