Eat 5 A Day for Good Health!
Nutritional and Other Information
About Melons




Melons are related to the squash family. As members of the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd family, they all grow on vines. Most of them resemble winter squash except for the watermelon which looks like a big cucumber, also in the same family. Melons are a good source of vitamin C and potassium.

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They have high water content are relatively low in calories, and also fat and cholesterol free. Most melons have a similar structure to winter squash with thick flesh and an inner seed filled section. The difference between melons and squash is the way they taste and the way they’re used. Squash are considered vegetables, while melons are known as sweet and juicy fruits.

There are so many kinds of melons on the market that it is hard to choose sometimes. There are many melons available. We will be talking mostly about cantaloupe or muskmelons, honeydews and watermelons but there is a list of more further down the page.

The melon that Americans call cantaloupe is truly a muskmelon. True cantaloupes are mainly grown in Europe and have a rough, warty surface quite different from the melons grown in the United States. In America "cantaloupe" has become the generic name of all netted, musk-scented melons. These muskmelons grown here have a raised surface all around the melon, called the netting, that should cover the melon completely

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The honeydew is thought to have originated in Persia. California, Texas and Arizona provide most of them but iin the off season, they are imported from Central America, Chile and even New Zealand.

Honeydew melons usually have a creamy yellow or white color with light green flesh. There is another variety with an orange or pink flesh and a salmon colored rind. When fully ripe, the skin will have a slightly waxy feel, and they will have a sweeter taste than any other melon.

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The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on the walls of their ancient buildings. Watermelons were often placed in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife.

Although watermelons are available year round, most of them are sold around the 4th of July than the rest of the whole year. In one study, Americans consumed 13 pounds of watermelon per person. There are two hundred varieties grown in forty-four states. The seeds can be many colors from white to brown or black, pink or red. The flesh can be red to yellow, full of seeds or seedless. Common ettiquette even allows spitting of the seeds in polite company, but not at each other!

Watermelon is the lycopene leader among fresh fruit and vegetables. A plant pigment found in only a few red plant foods such as tomatoes and watermelon, lycopene is thought to have powerful antioxidant capabilities and may help to prevent certain diseases. While tomatoes traditionally have been used in lycopene research because of their established lycopene levels, scientists recently discovered that watermelon have as much lycopene --or more than--that found in raw tomato. A 2-cup serving of watermelon contains 18.16 mg while one medium-sized tomato contains 4 mg. Studies also suggest that the bioavailability of lycopene in fresh watermelon may be comparable to that in tomato juice.

What Is Lycopene? Lycopene is a red pigment found in plants and is part of a large class of plant compounds called carotenoids. Carotenoids are fat soluble and create yellow, orange or red colors in plants. Carotenoids are not made by humans. Lycopene is not found in high amounts in many plants. The greatest sources of lycopene in fresh fruits and vegetables are watermelon, tomato, red grapefruit and guava. Of the carotenoids, lycopene is the most effective oxygen scavenger because it can neutralize several singlet oxygen with one lycopene molecule. Other antioxidants are Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and Vitamin E.

The red color found in strawberries, cherries, etc. is a water soluble pigment called anthocyanin, and is formed by a very different pathway from the carotenoids.

Selecting a quality product

In general, melons should be shaped according to their variety. For example, cantaloupes should be round, etc. In addition, melons should not have cracks, soft spots, or dark bruises. You should look for a clean and smooth break at the stem and for most mature melons have a fruity fragrance (if not chilled). A melon will not ripen after it is picked so be sure to look for one that is ripe and was not picked green.

Cantaloupes - Avoid very small cantaloupes, less than 5 inches in diameter, and ones with a large bald or smooth spot on their surface. It's all right for one side of the netting to be lighter colored from where the melon touched the ground while growing. Look for cantaloupes that have a smooth stem end. If part of the stem is still there it may be that it wasn't ripe enough to let go.

If a melon smells good, it will usually taste good. Melons should be firm with a little give, not overly soft, which means the melon is overripe. This is particularly true of the stem end, which should yield to pressure but not be soft or mushy. Good moisture content means that the melon will be heavy for its size. Shake the melon and if you hear liquid sloshing around inside, the melon is probably overripe. Avoid melons that show cracks, shriveling, or other obvious signs of poor quality.

Honeydews - They will be firm with a small amount of softness at the stem end and should be heavy for their size. Those weighing about 5 pounds will usually have the best flavor. Sometimes the seeds of a juicy melon will rattle if the melon is shaken which means it is overripe. Avoid melons that are too firm, too soft, have dark blemishes on the skin or are green-colored. The best rule for picking a ripe melon is if it smells good, it will probably taste good. Watermelons - Some people rely on the "thump" method when selecting a watermelon, but there is a more reliable way to choose watermelons. Select a firm watermelon that is free of bruises, cuts and dents. Turn the melon over. If the underside is yellow, and the rind has an overall healthy sheen, the watermelon is probably ripe. Select melons that are heavy for their size. Watermelons are 92% water, which obviously accounts for most of their weight.

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Tips on Storage

Don't refrigerate melons unless they become too ripe or have been cut. Whole ripe or cut melons should be stored at between 40°F and 45°F, and a whole ripe melon will last in the refrigerator about three days. Cut melons should be tightly wrapped, and always taste better if they are brought to room temperature before you eat them. Melons don't freeze well.

Compared to most fruits, watermelons need a more "tropical" climate - a thermometer reading of 55? F is ideal. However, whole melons will keep for 7 to 10 days at room temperature. Store them too long, and they'll lose flavor and texture.

Tips on Preparation

Simply cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Melons can be cut into halves, quarters, wedges, cubes, or scooped into balls with a melon baller. Most melons will benefit from a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to enhance the flavor and served at room temperature.

The easiest way to enjoy a cantaloupe or honeydew is to cut it in half, remove the seeds and eat a half or quarter (depending on its size), scooping out the flesh with a teaspoon. It can also be cut into slices lengthwise and if you want, you can cube it by cutting the slices into smaller pieces.

The most common way to cut a watermelon is by cutting the melon lengthwise in half then cut each half crosswise into quarters. Cut each quarter into three or four lengthwise wedges.

It is recommended that you wash the rind of any melon before cutting to get rid of any bacteria that may be present. There are a variety of sizes of melon ballers on the market. Melon balls can be scooped right from a melon half without removing the rind. Melon ballers can also be used for other fruits such as coring apples. The only problem with making melon balls is the waste. But you can use the leftover melon or overripe melons in a cold, melon soup or a smoothie. You can carve a used watermelon into baskets or animals to house fruit salad for a party.

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Recipes

Cantaloupe Smoothie

1 ripe banana
1/4 ripe cantaloupe
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tbsp milk powder
1 1/2 tbsp orange-juice concentrate
2 tsp honey

If on a hurried morning you eat nothing but this smoothie, you will still be doing your body a favor. The drink packs a powerful punch of potassium, calcium, vitamin C and beta carotene.

Place unpeeled banana in the freezer overnight or for up to 3 months. Remove banana from the freezer snd let it sit for 2 minutes, or until the skin begins to soften. With a paring knife, remove the skin. (Don't worry if a little fiber remains.) Cut the banana into chunks and put in a blender or food processor. Seed the cantaloupe quarter and cut the flesh from the rind. Cut the flesh into chunks and add to the blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Serves 1.




Honeydew Salsa

Yield: 7 Servings

1/2 cup red onion; diced into 1/4" pieces
1/2 red bell pepper; seeded and chopped
1 tbsp lime peel; finely minced
1 med jalapeno; seeded and chopped
2 cups ripe honeydew; cut into 1/2 cubes
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves or Italian flat parsley

Toss together onion, bell pepper, lime peel, jalapeno and honeydew in a nonreactive bowl. Drizzle with lime juice and toss again. Allow to sit for 30 minutes; adjust seasoning. Add cilantro/parsley and serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

NOTE: Use any kind of fresh fruit for this salsa - pineapple, grapes, peaches, plums, papayas, whatever. Serve it with grilled chicken, seafood or as an appetizer with jicama fingers and crackers.

Cilantro seems to lose flavor once it's cut, so wait until just before serving to chop and toss into the salsa OR, since many people do not even like cilantro, just replace it with Italian flat parsley.




Cucumber & Honeydew Melon Salad

Yield: 8 Servings

4 lb honeydew melon; halved and seeded
2 1/2 lb cucumbers, peeled
1/2 c fresh lime or lemon juice
4 tsp grated lemon peel
2 1/2 tsp fresh lemon thyme or thyme leaves

Scoop melon and cucumbers into balls, using melon baller. (Reserve melon shells.) Combine in large bowl with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally. Cover shells and refrigerate.

Cut bottom of melon shells flat. Just before serving, drain melon mixture and spoon into shells.




Grilled Portabella Mushrooms And Cantaloupe Salad

Yield: 6 Servings

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
A splash of cider vinegar
Garlic salt to taste
3 lg shallots; minced
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pepper to taste
6 portabella mushrooms
6 lg handfuls mesclun (mixed salad greens)
2 cantaloupes; peeled, seeded, cut into thin lengthwise slices
4 oz feta cheese; crumbled w/herbs & sun-dried tomato or herbs & garlic

Prepare grill: If using charcoal, allow coals to burn to medium-low heat or use indirect grilling method. If using gas, use low setting.

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegars, garlic salt, shallots, olive oil and pepper.

Wipe mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Brush both sides with vinaigrette. Place rounded-side down on grill. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Lift with tongs and rotate 1/4 turn. Grill 1 to 2 minutes longer. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Turn mushrooms and brush lightly with vinaigrette. Grill 2 to 4 minutes.

Place mushrooms on cutting board and drizzle with a little more vinaigrette; allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice on the diagonal. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Toss salad greens with enough vinaigrette to barely coat leaves. Refrigerate leftover vinaigrette; it will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Divide greens among 6 plates. Alternate slices of mushrooms with slices of cantaloupe. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Makes 6 servings.




Melons Stuffed with Fruits and Vegetables

(6 servings)

3 sm melons; cantaloupe is a good choice

FOR STUFFING:

1/3 cup oil
2 cups carrots; thinly sliced
2 tbsps raisins; seedless
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup green apple; chopped
1 cup green onion; chopped - green part only
1/2 cup lemon zest
3 cups rice; cooked

FOR TOPPING:

1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp pine nuts

Cut each melon in half and remove and discard the seeds. Scoop out the fruit and reserve. Heat 1/2 cup oil in large skillet. Add the carrots and raisins. Saute together until the carrots are soft. Add the salt, pepper, apple, green onion and lemon zest. Continue cooking until the apples are soft. Remove from heat and cool. Preheat oven to 325F. Combined the sauteed mixture with cooked rice and stuff the melons. Chop up two cups of the reserved melon & arrange on top of the stuffing. Place the stuffed melons in a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a small pan and brown the pine nuts, being careful not to let them burn. Sprinkle on top of baked melons and serve. SERVES: 6




Feta, Watermelon, And Heirloom Tomato Salad

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp roughly chopped italian parsley
6 heirloom tomatoes; (various kinds)
1/2 md seedless yellow watermelon; cut into chunks
1/2 md seedless red watermelon; cut into chunks
1 cup french feta cheese; diced
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl combine oil, dill, and parsley. Set aside.

Next arrange tomato pieces, watermelon chunks and diced feta on a plate. Season evenly with salt and pepper.

Finish plate by drizzling oil/herb mixture evenly over the tomato, feta, and watermelon. Serve.




Watermelon Baby Carriage Salad

1 well shaped watermelon
1 honeydew melon
2 cantaloupes
2 pink grapefruit
4 toothpicks; (4 to 6)

You first need to cut the watermelon into the shape of the body of a baby carriage. Then scoop out the insides of the watermelon, getting rid of the seeds Refill with melon balls and de-seeded watermelon. If you cut it right, you will also have slices of watermelon with the rind from the part that you cut away to form the cradle, be sure to use them, too.

After your salad is done, and placed in a stable place cut the grapefruit in half. Put a toothpick in the rind and secure to the bottom of the watermelon, cut side out. These are your wheels. If you poke a hole in the watermelon first with the toothpick it will be easier.




Watermelon Muffins

Yield: 12 Servings

1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp butter; room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup watermelon juice
1/2 cup watermelon pulp
1/2 cup raisins

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in large bowl. Cream butter and sugar; add eggs. Whip in milk, juice, pulp and raisins. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients; blend just to incorporate. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack; cool.

Note: A few drops of red food color can be added for more watermelon color.

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