As temperatures are warming up I can’t help but think of the nutritious and delicious taste of fresh melon. Ranked high among summer fruits, melons can quickly quench your thirst with their sweet and juicy flesh. No matter which way you slice them, when it comes to health and nutrition melon is number one. With only 40-80 calories per serving, melon makes a perfect nutritious summer snack.
Melons originated in Asia, became popular across Europe, and are said to have been transported by Columbus to the United States; eventually cultivated by Spanish explorers in California. Now melons are grown almost world wide and are increasingly popular in home gardens. Melons are in the same gourd family as cucumber and squash, with thick flesh and an inner seed-filled midsection; just used differently as vegetables.
Melon varieties are now endless! While cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon are the most popular, you can now find canary, casaba, crenshaw, persian, and santa claus varieties in farmers markets, and most grocery stores. Melons are best enjoyed from June-September, but are usually available year round.
Health and Nutrition Benefits of Melon
This incredible fruit is highly concentrated with excellent levels of beta-carotene, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and dietary fiber. It is also one of the few fruits that have a high level of vitamin B complex. Research indicates that the antioxidants, beta-carotene, and vitamin C in melon are capable of preventing heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions associated with aging.
Due to their high water content, (up to 90%), and potassium and magnesium levels, melons are very effective at bringing down blood pressure, detoxifying the kidneys, and have key nutrients that are particularly beneficial for healthy skin.
Watermelon is also a very valuable source of lycopene, one of the carotenoids that is helpful in reducing the resk of prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and colon cancer.
Melon calories: 100 g of honey dew melon has 29.5 kcal.
How to Chose a Melon
TIPS on picking Cantalope, Honeydew and specialty melons
Always chose a melon that is firm and heavy for its size. I know this sounds weird but if you start picking up several melons you will quickly understand what this means. Always choose a melon free of dents, bruises and cuts. For cantaloupe and honeydew, sniff the end where the stem once was. It should have a fragrance similar to the ripe flesh and be slightly soft. If you can’t smell anything it is underipe. Don’t buy the fruit if it has any dark or black areas, as this is usally mold. Shake the melon next to your ear. If you hear the seed rattling, it’s ready to eat. In cantalope look for more gold than green under the netting, and for a waxy type feel on honeydew, indicating that it’s close to ripe.
Tips for Picking a Ripe Watermelon
Make sure the melon is free of dents, bruises and cuts. Look for a pale yellow spot on one side of the melon where it laid on the ground ripening. If this spot is not present it is an indication that the fruit was picked too early. TIP: The best place to buy any melon is from a fruit stand or farmers market. Often the melon sold in grocery stores are picked too early. If you’ve ever wondered what the secret is to tapping on a watermelon to test ripeness, this is the deal. If it makes a hollow sounds, it’s full of water and ready to eat.
Tips on Storing Melon
Since bacteria can grow on the surface of most melon, it is important to wash the outside of the melon before cutting into it. Leaving a firm melon at room temperature for several days to ripen will allow it to become softer and juicier. Once the melon has reached its peak ripeness, store in the refrigerator. TIP: Since any fruit is better when sliced ripe, often times I’ll cut up the whole melon and freeze half for smoothies. It adds nutrition and makes the smoothie thicker, and more delicious.
Tips on Using Melon
- Juice it! – Peel and seed melons and chop into 2-inch chunks. Place in blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add pinch of salt, to taste. Chill until ready to serve.
- Mix melons with any chicken or seafood salad. The sweet taste will make the other flavors pop.
- Melon kebabs with seasonal fruit – Cut in to cubes, and thread on to skewers. Grapes, bananas, and strawberries are great choices. A squeeze of lemon will prevent browning.
- BBQ melon kebabs – Same as above, but first marinate in some pineapple juice with a bit of lime, turning occasionally. Grill until fruit is warm and you see grill marks. Pineapple, peaches and apricots are all delicious grilled.
- Make a watermelon bowl – Scoop out melon using a melon baller and reserve. Add bananas, apples, and grapes, and other seasonal fruits and melon. Put back in the “bowl”. It’s a beautiful presentation.
- Honeydew stuffed with crabmeat or shrimp – Half and seed the melon. Make your favorite seafood salad with chopped peppers, onions, and salsa or chunky tomato. Add light mayonnaise or yogurt with some Dijon mustard. Both you and your guests will want more.
Here’s a terrific melon salsa to go with any grilled fish or chicken – Melon Fruit Salsa
1 1/2 c. finely diced cantaloupe or casaba melon
1 1/2 c. finely diced honeydew melon
1 1/2 c. finely diced crenshaw melon
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or mint
1 jalapeno pepper (optional) or any green, red, or yellow pepper, seeded and minced, or 1/4 tsp. cayenne.
Combine all ingredients, cover and refrigerate. Grill fish or chicken, top with salsa and a squeeze of lime.
To help stay hydrated as temperatures warm up check out this recipe from Whole Foods for mouthwatering watermelon lemonade for adults and children.
To maximize the benefit from these tasty summer treats always eat a variety of melon.
Enjoy – I’m ready when you are!