Georgia Cooks: Melons

 

People often think of cutting open a watermelon the same way they think of cutting a cake or uncorking a bottle of wine – it’s a celebration!

It’s true that watermelons have a long association with picnics, festivals, fairs and days at the beach. It’s easy to see why. A watermelon’s natural sweetness and ability to refresh make it a perfect choice for a hot summer day.

But the watermelon is moving beyond its traditional associations and is finding its way into all meals. Top-notch restaurants are likely to serve a triangle of watermelon as a side item to steak, grilled salmon or a fancy hamburger. A fruit salad featuring watermelon is likely to turn up at any time.

And there is nothing wrong with that. Watermelons are versatile and loaded with fiber and vitamins.

If you are one of those people who don’t care to pick out seeds, try one of the “seedless” varieties that have next to no seeds at all. They are a little more expensive because they are more costly to produce, but they are worth it if you want to avoid seeds.

If you are lucky, you may find a few growers producing yellow-fleshed watermelons. These are just as sweet as the red varieties and are sought by chefs and hosts who want something different. Combining the flesh of a yellow variety with the flesh of a red variety makes an attractive and healthy dessert. Cube the flesh or use a melon-baller and serve it in a small bowl or large parfait glass.

 

Cantaloupes or, more correctly, muskmelons, have long been a part of meals in Georgia. They fit into almost any breakfast, brunch, lunch, supper or dinner menu. One traditional favorite way is to serve slices of cantaloupe along with country ham, grits and red-eye gravy at breakfast. The sweetness of the melon complements the saltiness of the ham and gravy.

A cantaloupe fruit salad can be served along with any meal or as dessert. Use cantaloupe as the base and add honeydew, watermelon, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, nectarines, peaches or grapes.

For a cool summertime lunch, half a cantaloupe through its “equator,” scrape out the seeds and replace them with a scoop of cottage cheese. For a dessert, do the same thing but use vanilla ice cream or green tea ice cream instead.

Although most cantaloupes have orange flesh, you will find a few like ‘Rocky Ford’ or the heirloom ‘Jenny Lind’ that have green flesh. They are served and used the same way as the orange varieties.

If you have a cantaloupe that is riper than you prefer, peel it and freeze the flesh in cubes. Add the frozen cubes along with yogurt in a blender to make a cantaloupe smoothie.

At an authentic Mexican restaurant, you may have the opportunity to drink cantaloupe agua fresca. If you get the opportunity, take it. This drink is like lemonade with cantaloupes instead of lemons!

If you are a bird watcher, save the cantaloupe seeds, rinse them to remove any filaments, let them dry and put them in a platform feeder for the birds to eat.

Parents love watermelons and cantaloupes because children love watermelons and cantaloupes. Even the pickiest eaters will eat them. If you are having a difficult time getting your children to eat fruits and vegetables, serve cantaloupes and watermelons. You don’t have to tell the little picky people how healthy these Georgia grown melons are.

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