You’ve just sliced open a lovely, weighty melon. You’re imagining the sweet juice running down your chin when you bite into a slice. You sink your teeth into it and achieve only utter disappointment.
This, for me, is the majority of cantaloupe encounters, such that I never, ever buy them, regardless of how deeply I adore a ripe, tender honeydew or nearly any other variety.
The way we ended up with the bland, pithy fruit sitting rejected on our cutting board was a different one: our trailing melon vines in the yard had yielded a number of totally unrecognizable, volleyball-sized fruits, vaguely lemon-shaped with a dark green rind. Between us we had no recollection of what the heck we had planted, other than “melon,” and they seemed to have reached a stagnant point of growth and maturation.
So, last night my husband picked the oldest one, and this morning, plunged a knife through it. Even our baby, with the easiest-to-please palate around, wrinkled her nose. The flavor was rather like a cucumber, not unpleasant but not succulent or sweet.
Fortunately, unripe melon, it turns out, makes a spectacular summer salad.
I cubed the melon into bite-sized pieces and put them in a medium-sized bowl. Then I sliced a handful of basil leaves and mint leaves– a mix of grapefruit and apple mint were perfect for this use, though I’m sure most varieties would work wonderfully. I squeezed half a lemon over, drizzled in about half a tablespoon of delicious local honey, and added a teaspoon or two each of red wine vinegar and olive oil. I tossed in about a third of a very small, thinly sliced sweet onion (amounting to perhaps a loosely packed quarter cup), and crumbled over about a quarter cup of bleu cheese (feta would be great, too). Finally, I seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper. After I good stir, I covered the salad and let it sit in the fridge for a bit.
The flavors married marvelously, and I must say, I will be slower to lament my next under-ripe melon. We ate it with cold chicken, and our daughter gave her mark of approval. Perfect for yet another 108-degree afternoon.