Nina’s Tips & Techniques: Local Harvest featuring Musk Melons & Cantaloupe

How do I know if a melon is ripe?

I believe your nose is the best tool for this job. A ripe melon smells floral and sweet on the outside (I use the same rule with pineapples). I do not use a squeeze test; a melon that is soft on the outside is typically over-ripe and will be mushy when you cut into it. Lucky for you, it’s local melon season! This means that the fruit is picked ripe and sent directly to market. Fruits that are picked ripe usually taste sweeter because their flavors/sugars developed on the vine and not in the store, unlike fruit that has to be grown and picked far away and then shipped to us. Those are typically picked green and ripen en route or even once you get it home. If you do get an unripe melon, the best way to speed up the ripening process is to put it in a paper bag and leave it on your counter. A day or two later it will be sweet and fragrant!

What is the best way to cut and peel a melon?

I’m always an advocate of cutting round things so that they sit flat on your cutting board. Flat things cannot slip or roll and are therefore safer! The melon is much more enjoyable outside of the emergency room. I start by putting the melon on its side, cutting a flat surface at both the stem and flower ends. Now turn the melon onto one flat end. If you want your whole melon peeled you can peel it from this stage by cutting down the sides between the skin and the meat, turning the knife with the curve of the melon (like you would do to segment an orange). Then cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. From here you can slice or dice however you please! If you want the skin left on just cut the melon in half after you have cut the flat sides and scoop the seeds.

Featured Recipe: Melon Salad with Hazelnuts and Lime