Is there a more quintessential snack on a hot summer day than a slice of watermelon exploding with juice as you take a bite into its fleshy core?
Many people don’t realize there are dozens of varieties of melons available. Let’s explore a few varieties, how to best use them, and learn about their rich nutritional content.
Melons: Where are they from?
Melons originated in Africa and southwest Asia, but now grow throughout the warmer regions of the world. The melon plant belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae, the gourd family of flowering plants. They are annual plants and found in season typically from July through September. The fruits come in all shapes and colors depending on the variety and vary in size and shape as well. Despite melons having a different outward appearance and size, they all have a sweet, juicy flesh which makes them a natural thirst quencher.
The Sweetest Melon
The Crenshaw melon, considered one of the sweetest varieties in the melon family, is a hybrid cross between a Persian melon and Casaba melon. It boasts a sweet, but slightly spicy taste. They are large, averaging 8-10 pounds and are typically spherical in shape with a tapered point at the stem.
Choose a Crenshaw melon at the peak of ripeness when their skin turns a golden-yellow color and you feel a small tenderness at the stem end.
Besides a tasty snack, serve fresh Crenshaw melon in a salad or dessert. For something different, pair with salty cured meat and mozzarella as an appetizer or sear or grill cubes on a fruit skewer. This variety in particular is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C.
Muskmelons, Say What?
Muskmelons come in many varieties but all of them have a characteristic light tan netting over their exterior and are round or oval in shape. They range from 5-8 pounds and thrive in high heat conditions. When sliced into, you find their smooth, aromatic, musky-scented orange flesh along with a central seed cavity.
Think twice before tossing out those seeds! Along with vitamins and minerals, the seeds are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids which are supportive of good heart health and cholesterol levels. Roast the seeds and toss them on a salad.
In the United States, we commonly see muskmelons displayed or advertised as cantaloupe so pick one up today!
Health Benefits of Melons
No matter the color, shape or size, all melons provide similar vitamins and minerals. Melons are made up of mostly water, making them a great way to rehydrate. They are low in calories and a good source of fiber. They are a great source of vitamin C and contain minerals like potassium to aid in regulating blood pressure, manganese, iron and phosphorus.
Eating melons can provide an energy boost: They contain B vitamins, which support the body’s energy production and processing of carbohydrates and sugars. Collagen is found in melons, which supports the integrity of our cell structure in all connective tissues like our skin to help maintain firmness and aid in wound healing. Our hair even benefits from this tasty fruit as the Vitamin A derived from the beta carotene in melons like cantaloupe, is essential for normal hair growth and the maintenance of healthy hair.
Recipe for Health: Watermelon Feta Orzo Salad With Lemon and Basil
This month’s recipe features watermelon, an iconic summer fruit. Watermelon is particularly high in the antioxidant lycopene which has been thought to prevent heart disease and some types of cancer. Think outside of the box and try this refreshing salad.
Orzo pasta is cooked al dente and mixed with fresh, juicy cubed watermelon and tossed in a tangy lemon vinaigrette. The feta cheese adds a nice salty contrast to the sweet watermelon and touch of honey. Serve this alongside grilled meat or fish at your next barbeque and watch it disappear before your eyes!
Watermelon Feta Orzo Salad With Lemon and Basil
- 1cupdry orzo
- 1 1/2tspfresh lemon zest
- 1Tbspfresh lemon juice
- 2 1/4tspextra virgin olive oil
- 3cupscubed seedless watermelon (dice into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes
- 3/4cupfeta cheese, crumbled
- 1/8cupchopped fresh basil
- Cook pasta in salted water according to directions listed on package. Drain well (don’t rinse) then pour into a large bowl.
- While pasta boils, stir together lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and honey. Pour half of mixture over drained pasta in bowl and toss. Season with salt to taste. Allow to cool.
- Add watermelon, feta and basil to orzo.
- Add remaining lemon juice mixture and toss to evenly coat.