Food & Nutrition

The Right Way to Buy, Cut, and Serve 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 Perfect Melon


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.

 

Melon Skills: Cut and Serve 


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.
 

Melon Glossary


Since most of us are already familiar with watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew, we wanted to show off some of the lesser-known (and highly delicious) melons often available at the market. Here are a few of our favorites:

Canary

Canary
Also known as Juan Canary, canary melons are large and football-shaped, with a vibrant yellow rind. Cut into one, and its pale-green, relatively mild flesh may surprise you. Choose a canary melon carefully (it should have a perfumy, sweet aroma), as they have very little flavor when underripe.

Casaba

Casaba
One of the few melons that will ripen at room temperature, casabas look nothing like cantaloupes or honeydews — their rind is pale yellow and deeply furrowed. Inside, their flesh is creamy white. Casabas aren’t as aromatic as other melons, so to judge ripeness, press gently at the stem end; if it gives a bit, it’s ripe. In terms of flavor, it’s surprisingly cucumber-like.

Crenshaw

Crenshaw
Also called Cranshaw, this large melon is a cross between a casaba and a Persian melon. The result is exceptionally sweet and almost spicy, with a greenish-yellow rind and lovely salmon-colored flesh.

Galia

Galia
If it looks like a golden cantaloupe on the outside and a honeydew on the inside, chances are your melon is a galia. It’s often called a dessert melon thanks to its honeyed, juicy sweetness.

Ogen

Ogen
Named for the kibbutz in Israel where it was popularized, the small, round ogen is almost outrageously sweet and fragrant. The rind starts out dark green and turns golden as it ripens, with deep-green furrows running from pole to pole. Some varieties have netting like a cantaloupe, while others are smooth.

Persian

Persian
Is that cantaloupe oblong, larger than usual, with delicate netting and aromatic, rosy-orange flesh? Then it’s probably a Persian. Rind that’s green beneath the netting indicates an underripe melon — it turns almost golden as it sweetens.

Sharlyn Sharlyn
These beauties are relatively large and oblong, with beige-gold skin beneath a mosaic-like netting. Its sweet, cream-colored flesh tastes like a cantaloupe-honeydew combo. Sharlyns are quite perishable, so refrigerate them even before cutting, and eat within a few days.