choosing a melon

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Choosing a ripe melon: To make the best choice, you need to know two main facts about the type of melon: ~ Is its rind thick and hard or thin? Cantaloupes, muskmelons, and honeydews all have thin skins and are generally consumed shortly after harvest. Hard-rind melons, such as casaba or Santa Claus, are long keepers and may be stored for months under optimum conditions.

~ Is your melon a "slip" melon? A slip melon is one that, when ripe, pulls readily away from its stem, leaving a clean scar at the base of the melon. If picked before it's fully ripened, a slip melon will have a tear in the rind. Slip melons may have either thick or thin rinds. Nonslip melons must be cut from their vines. You'll find them in the market with a bit of the stem attached.

Once you've purchased a ripe melon, refrigerate it until ready to eat. Some melons seem to be at their best when eaten near room temperature, only slightly cook, since smell is part of taste perception and chilling retards the release of the fragrant, volatile oils.

There are countless varieties of melons to choose from. Regardless of what kind of melon you choose, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind to make sure you're getting a good one.

~ Overall, a melon should be hard, with no soft spots.

~ A melon should be heavy for its size. Weigh a few that look about the same size and choose the heaviest one.

~ A ripe, good-quality hard-skinned melon will give a hollow ring, not a dull thud, when knocked, and the skin should be fully colored.

~ When choosing thin-skinned melons, smell the scar at the base of the melon. The fragrance should be immediately noticeable, even if it's only faint.

~ If there is a slip-scar, it should be hard and show no evidence of mold, decay, or tearing.

~ If the melon is not a slip type, an ooze of sweet dew may be apparent at the stem, indicating ripeness.

Fine Cooking

August-September 1995

Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 11-07-95

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