Ever left a muskmelon to ripen in the fruit bowl? In a day or two, the most enchanting, inviting aroma will waft through the kitchen as it promises a sweet juiciness.
In the height of summer, a lot of advice and tips gets passed around listing the best ways to stay cool and avoid succumbing to the heat. But the most effective are the ones that advocate adequate consumption of cooling foods of which melons top the list. Their high water content and natural sweetness make them appealing to the taste buds while providing the body with the nutrients it needs. Muskmelons are low in calories, rich in anti-oxidants like beta-carotene while also being an excellent source of Vitamin A. On the other hand, the lycopene in watermelon is particularly great at protecting cardio-vascular health. This phytonutrient increases in concentration as the fruit ripens; going from whitish flesh to pink to red. Hence, to gain the most nutrition, it’s essential to consume fully ripe watermelons. With a 92% water content, the watermelon, as the name suggests, has a refreshing, thirst-quenching property that makes it a favourite among most people.
Like most fruits, eating ice cold melons straight up while letting its syrupy juice drip over the fingers can be one of life’s simple joys. Yet the heady sweetness of a muskmelon make it the perfect accompaniment to salty ingredients like shavings of pecorino cheese or rosettes of prosciutto. Similarly a squeeze of lime juice, torn mint or coriander leaves and crumbled feta work wonders on raising the flavour profile of a watermelon.
For a creative twist, slice the watermelon across the middle into thick rings and then divide like a pizza. Top each ‘pizza’ slice with chopped kalamata olives, torn basil leaves, ricotta salata or feta, thin sliced red onions and drizzle with a simple vinaigrette. It’s a brilliant interpretation of a salad, pizza sure to please guests and kids alike. Or move away from European tastes with this Thai style melon salad. Using a melon baller, scoop the flesh of muskmelon into balls. Combine lime juice, thinly sliced bird’s eye chilli, fish sauce and sugar with a little water till the flavours are balanced. Marinate the fruit in this dressing for an hour in the fridge and serve chilled, garnished with torn mint and roasted peanuts.
The goodness of melons extends past its succulent flesh to its seeds as well. Usually spat out in annoyance, the seeds of both musk and watermelons are powerhouses of nutrients essential to maintaining immune and cardiovascular systems. The essential fatty acids are good for the skin and hair while reducing signs of aging. When cleaned, dried and roasted, these nutty seeds are great as a snack or a crunchy element in muffins, parfaits or salads. A combination of both seeds scattered on bread during baking makes for a great loaf.
So go on, pick up the heaviest, aromatic melon you can find and cool off while also eating healthy!