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Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois

Melons: The Sweet Taste of Summer

Posted by Ron Wolford -

Think back to summertime when you were a kid. What taste of summer comes to mind? If watermelon is at the top of the list, wait no longer. Watermelons are ripe and ready at your local farmer's market. Not only are watermelons ready for picking, but so are muskmelons, also known as cantaloupe.

"It's often difficult to tell when melons are perfectly ripe," says Jennifer Nance, University of Illinois Extension educator. "Most melons such as muskmelons are ready when they easily separate from the vine. The rind will also change from green to tan or yellow between the netting. But, be careful not to pick too early. Once picked, muskmelons soften but do not sweeten any further."

Avoid melons with rinds that are still green. Unlike muskmelons, honeydew and Crenshaw melons must be cut from the vine after they turn completely yellow.

Watermelons have a few tell-tell signs to help determine their ripeness. Unfortunately, the common "thumping" of the melon isn't always a good indicator. Nance says a combination of these signs indicates ripeness:

  • curly tendrils on the stem near the point of attachment are brown and dry
  • surface color of the fruit is dull
  • the skin becomes resistant to penetration by the thumbnail and is rough to the touch
  • the bottom of the melon (where it lies on the soil) turns from light green to a yellowish color. A watermelon isn't quite ripe if the underside is white or pale green
  • Store un-cut melons at room temperature. Before cutting, wash the surface with cool, running water. Once cut, melons are highly perishable and must be stored in the refrigerator.

Try this recipe for a tasty summer dessert.

Melon Berry Salad

1 cantaloupe
2 apples
1 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Non-fat whipped topping (optional)

Wash cantaloupe, apples, and blueberries under cool, running water. Cut cantaloupe and apples into small pieces. Combine cantaloupe, apples, and blueberries in a large bowl. In a small dish, combine the honey and lemon juice. Pour honey mixture over fruit and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate for one hour before serving. Serve with whipped topping. Refrigerate unused portion.

Source: Jennifer Nance, R.D., Unit Educator, Family Nutrition Program, jnance@uiuc.edu



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