Summertime is melon time and it’s lucky for us low-carbing crowd that melons, by and large, are on the A-list of carb friendly fruits. With the stalls of our farmers’ market groaning with melons this time of year, Mike and I have been indulging our melon Jones.

One of our favorite ways to eat melon–aside from just sprinkling a slice with salt and eating it with our hands–is with proscuitto. I cannot imagine how many orders of proscuitto e melone Mike and I have put away when travelling in Italy, particularly in the north, where the proscuitto reigns supreme. Mamma mia that’s good eats.

We love most every imaginable sort of melon, from the everyday cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew to some of the slightly less common varieties, such as Cranshaw and Sharlyn.

If you’re unfamiliar with this variety, it looks a lot like a mutant cantaloupe, the skin a slightly darker shade of beige to almost green beneath a prominent surface netting, the flesh usually creamy pale green to pale ivory-gold. And the flavor is sweeter and muskier, sort of a cross between a cantaloupe and a honeydew. The slightly exotic sweetness works really well against the salty proscuitto, so it’s become a favorite of ours for this purpose.

I picked up a ready-to-eat Sharlyn at the market the other day that we enjoyed two days running, draped with proscuitto di Parma, as an appetizer before dinner one night, then for a light lunch the next day. Once these babies are ripe, they won’t hang around long, so you have to make haste when you’ve got one home.

Or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Picking a good melon can sometimes be a challenge. You thump; you sniff; you weigh hand to hand. And still, sometimes, you reap the disappointment of slicing up what appears to be a cantaloupe and getting an orange-colored sliver of cardboard. A fool’s melon: looks like a melon; quacks like a melon; but it ain’t no melon.

That’s why a little brief in today’s LA Times Food section caught my eye: Know your melons, then pick a winner. Written by cookbook author, food critic, and veteran food editor Russ Parsons, I figured it would help demystify the melon pickery magic.

And it did.

According to Mr. Parsons, we need remember that melons come in two types: the netted-skin varieties (cantaloupe, Sharlyn, muskmelon, etc.) and the smooth skinned ones (honeydew, watermelon, etc). If you’re looking for ripeness, pick the netted ones by smell and look for raised ‘nets’ on the surface. Pick the sleek ones (which don’t smell, so don’t bother) by color and thump.

Once you’ve selected a winner, take it home, split it, seed it, slice it, salt it (just a little and grind on a little black pepper if you must) and serve it…with our without proscuitto.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for the info…my mother and I have been having an absolutely difficult time trying to figure out the best way to pick ripe melons!

    COMMENT from MD EADES: You may have seen another tip in the article to look for smooth skinned melons to have a yellowish, flat patch on one side, indicating that the melon ripened in the field. And with honeydew, he recommended selecting melons that had a few brown blotches on their pale green skin, that he claimed indicated caramelized sugars and sweetness. There’s nothing as tasty as a good, ripe melon and nothing worse than a cardboard-flavored slice.

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