The Skinny on... Melon
Sweet and juicy melons come in pinks, oranges, creams and greens. Here's what you need to know about choosing, storing and enjoying these gorgeous summer fruits.
There are hundreds of melons out there, but in fact there are only two species: watermelon and muskmelon. That’s right — muskmelon encompasses just about any melon that isn’t a watermelon. Many melons of both varieties are excellent sources of Vitamins A and C. And for all that sweetness, a cup of melon is very waistline-friendly.
Choosing: The test for watermelons is simple: Look at the underside, the paler part that didn’t see much sun. If it’s yellow, it’s ripe. If it’s greenish or white, it was picked too soon. Muskmelons are equally easy: Trust your nose. Sniff the stem end — if it smells sweet and irresistibly melony, it’s ready. If these indicators aren’t there, don’t bother; most varieties won’t ripen significantly off the vine.
Cutting and Serving: Whole melons can be stored at room temperature (refrigerate for a few hours if you prefer to eat it cold). Don’t cut into it until you’re ready to eat — that hard rind helps preserve the fruit. But after cutting, melons should be tightly wrapped, stored in the fridge and used within a few days. Wash the outside of any melon with warm soapy water before you cut into it — otherwise the knife’s blade may drag bacteria into the flesh.
Cutting a smaller melon is relatively simple, if messy. With a large knife, cut it in half, then scoop out the seeds — have a towel nearby to mop up the juices. A big specimen, especially one with a thick rind like watermelon, takes a little more muscle and finesse. Holding a large knife as you would for chopping vegetables, stick the tip into the top center of the melon and carefully pull the blade through the side closest to you. Turn the melon around and repeat on the other side. Put one half cut-side down on your cutting board and use the same method to split it into quarters; repeat with the other side. For any type of melon, we love to use a melon-baller to remove the flesh — it’s easy, it’s quick and kids (of all ages) love the shape.
With contributions by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.