Melons are great all by themselves, though some people like to perk up their flavor by sprinkling lemon juice, salt, or liqueur on them. Look for three things when selecting a melon: (1) Was it picked too soon? Each variety turns a certain color at maturity. If your melon isn't the right color, reject it. (2) Is it damaged? If it has soft spots, cracks, or mold, reject it. (3) Is it ripe? Even mature melons may need a few days to ripen fully.
If a melon flunks either of the first two tests, don't buy it. If it passes those tests, but isn't ripe, just leave it on your kitchen counter for a few days until it reaches full flavor. All melons should also be heavy for their size.
Substitutes: starfruit OR papayas (these also work in salsas)
Equivalents: One pound = one cup, cubes
African horned cucumber See kiwano (melon).
African horned melon See kiwano (melon).
ambrosia melon Notes: This looks and tastes like a cantaloupe, but the flesh is a brighter orange. Substitutes: cantaloupe Canary melon = Juan Canary melon Notes: These tend to vary in quality, so unless you're good at selecting melons, stick with more idiot-proof varieties like the honeydew or cantaloupe. Canaries should, at a minimum, have bright yellow rinds. They're in season in the fall. Substitutes: honeydew OR cantaloupe cantaloupe = nutmeg melon = muskmelon = netted melon = rockmelon Notes: These are popular because they're easy to select and very sweet. Ripe cantaloupes have dull yellow backgrounds with raised netting. Avoid those with protruding stems, or tears in the rind at the stem end--it's a tell-tale sign that the melon was picked too soon. When ripe melons are picked, the stem falls off easily, leaving a small, clean depression. After checking the stem end, flip the melon over and check the blossom end. It should be fragrant and yield a bit when pressed. Cantaloupes are cheapest in the summer. Substitutes: Cranshaw melon OR honeydew melon OR Persian melon (larger)
casaba melon Notes: These aren't as flavorful as other melons, but they have a fairly long shelf life. Since they have thick rinds, it's useless to smell them as a test for ripeness. Look instead at the color (it should be bright yellow), and then check to see if the blossom end yields to gentle pressure. Substitutes: Santa Claus melon (These also have a long shelf life.) OR Crenshaw melon OR Spanish melon OR Sharlyn melon OR cantaloupe
Charantais melon = French Charantais melon Notes: This is reputed to be one of the best melon varieties of all. Substitutes: honeydew melon OR cantaloupe
Christmas melon See Santa Claus melon.
Crane melon Notes: This melon-cantaloupe cross is exceptionally juicy and flavorful, but it's hard to find outside of Sonoma County, California. Substitutes: cantaloupe
Cranshaw melon = Crenshaw melon Notes: This large, popular melon is a cross between the Persian and Casaba melons. The rinds come in two colors: yellow and creamy white. The yellow ones taste better. You can buy Cranshaws while they're still a little underripe and let them sit on the counter for a few days. When fully ripe, a Cranshaw will be fragrant and yield slightly to gentle pressure at its blossom end. They're best in the fall. Substitutes: casaba melon OR Persian melon OR Sharlyn melon OR Spanish melon OR cantaloupe OR honeydew melon
Crenshaw melon See Cranshaw melon.
English tomato See kiwano (melon).
Galia melon Notes: This sweet, juicy melon is a honeydew-cantaloupe cross. Its biggest drawback is its relatively high price. Substitutes: honeydew OR cantaloupe
hedged gourd See kiwano (melon).
honeyball melon = honey ball melon Notes: This is just like a honeydew melon, only it's smaller, rounder, and covered with netting. Substitutes: honeydew melon (larger) OR cantaloupe
honeydew melon = honey dew melon Notes: These large, choice melons have either green or orange flesh. As honeydews ripen, they turn from green to creamy white to yellow. Avoid green ones, but a creamy white one will (unlike other melons) ripen on your counter in a few days. A perfectly ripe honeydew will yield just a bit to pressure at the blossom end and have a sticky, velvety rind. Substitutes: cantaloupe OR Cranshaw melon
horned melon See kiwano (melon).
jelly melon See kiwano (melon).
kharbouza melon Notes: This is a very crunchy, mildly sweet melon. kiwano = kiwano melon = horned melon = African horned cucumber = African horned melon = English tomato = hedged gourd = jelly melon = melano Pronunciation: kee-WAH-noh Notes: This melon has a gorgeous orange rind with spikes--poke a stick in it and you'd have a medieval mace for a Halloween costume. The yellow-green flesh has the consistency of jello, and tastes a bit like cucumbers. Substitutes: cucumber (the flesh lacks the brilliant chartreuse color of the kiwano's flesh.) OR other melon
melano See kiwano (melon).
muskmelon See cantaloupe.
netted melon See cantaloupe.
nutmeg melon See cantaloupe.
Ogen melon Notes: This melon hails from Israel, and it's very highly regarded by melon fans. Substitutes: honeydew melon OR cantaloupe
Persian melon Notes: These are large, round melons. They're excellent when vine-ripened, but mediocre when not. Avoid Persian melons that have green backgrounds below the netting--they were picked too early. Also avoid those with protruding stems, or tears in the rind at the stem end--it's a tell-tale sign that the melon was picked too soon. When ripe melons are picked, the stem falls off easily, leaving a small, clean depression. They peak in the summer months. Substitutes: Cranshaw (a cross between the Persian and casaba melons) OR Sharlyn melon (white flesh instead of orange) OR cantaloupe (smaller)
rockmelon See cantaloupe.
Santa Claus melon = Christmas melon Notes: This is distinguished mostly by its long shelf life--you can store an uncut Santa Claus melon for several months. They have thick rinds, so don't bother smelling them for ripeness--they don't give off much of an aroma. Substitutes: honeydew (better flavor) OR cantaloupe (better flavor) OR casaba melons (These also have a long shelf life.)
Sharlyn melon Notes: When ripe, this has an orange background with green netting. It's very perishable, so don't wait more than two days after getting it home to eat it. Substitutes: Persian melon (This has orange, not white, flesh) OR Cranshaw melon OR Spanish melon OR cantaloupe
Spanish melon = Green Tendral melon = Elche honeydew Notes: These are delicious melons, but it's hard to know when they're fully ripe. Unlike most other melons, a ripe Spanish melon will have a green rind and be firm at the blossom end. Substitutes: cranshaw melon OR casaba melon
watermelon Notes: There are about 50 varieties of watermelon on the market. They all taste about the same, but they vary in size, flesh color, and in whether they are seeded or seedless. Picnic melons are largest, while icebox melons are round and compact. Many stores also carry yellow-fleshed, white-fleshed, and seedless melons. The rind should be heavy for its size, and free of bruises, soft spots, or cuts. To check for ripeness, look at the pale side of the melon (where it rested while it was growing)--it should be yellow, not white. If your market sells halved watermelons, inspect the flesh--it should be firm, brightly colored, and free of white streaks. Seeded watermelons should have dark brown or black seeds. To store, wrap watermelon slices loosely in plastic and refrigerate for up to two days. Uncut watermelon can be stored at room temperature (preferably in a cool spot) for up to two weeks. Substitutes: honeydew melon
yellow melon = dua gan = Korean melon Notes: These melons are small, about the size of medium papaya. They taste like cantaloupe, but with firmer flesh. Substitutes: cantaloupe
Copyright © 1996-2005 Lori Alden