Unmasking summer melons | NevadaAppeal.com

Unmasking summer melons

Chef Heather Hunsaker

A summer picnic without a slice of juicy watermelon is hard to image. And a backyard brunch wouldn’t be complete without a fruit salad full of cantaloupe. Melon season, from June-October, is here and in full force.  

Juicy melons have been enjoyed since the reign of Egyptian pharos and later spread to parts of Europe. Melons were eventually brought to the U.S. by the Spanish and are now grown in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, and other warm growing regions.

Melons belong to the gourd family, which also consist of squash, cucumbers, and pumpkin. Melons, known for their thick rind and sweet, juicy fruit, are divided into two categories: muskmelons and watermelons. Muskmelons include popular varieties such as cantaloupe and honeydew.

To pick the perfect melon, listen for a hollow sound when you knock the rind. Melons should also be heavy for their size, free of blemishes or soft spots, and have a sweet smell. They should be stored at room temperature until ready to be cut. Once cut, melons should be stored in the refrigerator and will keep for five days. To freeze cut melon, place seeded pieces in a blender and puree. Pour pureed melon mixture into ice cube trays and freeze for 3-6 months.

Due to their high water content, melons are low in calories and fat and are a cholesterol free food. Melons are chockfull of Vitamins A, C and B, as well as lycopene, potassium and beta-carotene.

This summer, look for these popular melon varieties at a grocer near you.

Cantaloupe: A popular melon with orange flesh and a tan colored rind with a netted texture.

Honeydew: This melon weighs 5-6 pounds and has a light yellow rind and pale green flesh.

Watermelon: Is the most popular melon variety. It can weigh three pounds for a mini-watermelon to thirty pounds for the giant variety. This melon is known for its green rind and red flesh but can also be found with a yellow flesh.

Crenshaw: These ten pound melons have a waxy, pale yellow rind with a salmon-pink flesh. This melon is known for its sweet yet slightly spicy flavor.

Melons can lend themselves to sweet and savory cooking techniques. Take advantage of this summer fruit and perfect grilling weather and make this grilled salmon with melon salsa for dinner tonight.

Grilled Salmon with Melon Salsa

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4

1/2 cup fresh, pineapple, diced

1/2 cup cantaloupe, diced

1/2 cup honeydew melon, diced

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

4 (6 ounce fillet) salmon 

Put the fruit, cilantro, honey and lime juice in a bowl, mix lightly and set aside. Season salmon with salt and black pepper.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Oil grill and cook salmon for 8-10 minutes flipping half way through cooking.

To broil, preheat broiler and for broil salmon for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork.

Serve salmon topped with melon salsa.

• Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. Currently, Chef Heather serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site www.foodonthetable.com.