During the summer months, when there is a bounty of melons to be had, the produce department is witness to a lot of shaking, thumping, squeezing, tapping and sniffing. It makes perfect sense, you work hard for your money and you want the best value for your dollar so not just any melon will do. You want the best, and here is how to find it:
First things first, look for a stem. If there is a stem on the cantaloupe (or any melon), put it down and keep looking. When melons are ripe, they snap away easily from the stem. If you see a stem on the fruit you want, then that fruit is probably not ripe and will not taste very good. The netting on the melon should be well defined and coarse. There should be a gold tint to the color of the outside of the melon, a green tint indicates a slightly under ripe fruit. A good cantaloupe should feel heavy for its size, and the blossom end should yield oh so slightly when pressed. Lastly, you should smell the stem end. If it smells sweet and musky, then you have picked a winner!
These are a cross between casaba melons (a melon noted for its sweetness but almost complete lack of aroma) and Persian melons (a variety of small cantaloupe). The melons are slightly oval shaped and taper at one end almost to a point. They should have a light to dark yellow color, and the flesh a pinkish, orange color. The melon should feel heavy for its size, but it will be softer than cantaloupe so don’t be alarmed if you squeeze one and it feels softer than melons you may be used to. The melon should yield slightly when pressure is applied to the stem end, but there will probably not be much of an aroma due to the casaba ancestry of the plant.
The word “galia” is the feminine form of the Israeli word for “wave.” This melon was developed in Israel in the 1970’s by crossing a cantaloupe and honeydew. The surface should be netted like cantaloupe, but the netting shouldn’t be as course or pronounced. The skin should have a golden color and the fruit should feel solid and heavy for its size. The taste is similar to cantaloupe but different enough to have a loyal following. The color of the flesh is more like that of honeydew.
These melons should have a smooth skin, not a netted one like cantaloupe or galia. The color of the skin should be green when the melons are unripe and will change to a creamy yellow color when they are ready to eat. These melons will ripen well if placed on a kitchen counter for a few days. Honeydew should be heavy for its size, but it should sound kind of hollow inside. A good way to test this is to pick up the melon and gently shake it; if you hear seeds rattling around in there then you’ve got a good melon. This test is not as reliable with other melons.
It is very hard to gauge the ripeness of a watermelon by merely looking at it. It must be picked up and analyzed. Hold it, feel the weight of it. It should feel heavy and solid. Gently tap the melon with your knuckles. If you hear a dull “thud” like someone smacking a half inflated basketball, then the melon is probably over-ripe and mush inside. If you hear a higher pitched “knock” like someone with a tight fist knocking on a wood door, then you’ve picked a winner! The melon should be green on top and cream colored on the bottom. If the bottom is still green or whiter than cream or yellow, it is probably not very ripe.
All melons can be stored unrefrigerated and uncut for three to five days.
After cutting, be sure to put the leftovers in an air tight storage container in the refrigerator (their flavors will permeate other items in your refrigerator if the container is not air tight.)