When it comes to summer fruit, I think melon gets a bum rap as the unexciting alternative to the season’s darlings, berries and stone fruit. As one of the hardiest fruits around, melons are colorful yet ubiquitous stalwarts on ‘seasonal fruit platters’ all year long. While a South American melon can survive midwinter transcontinental travel, by the time it reaches our shores its flavor and color is at best insipid. Contrast these globetrotting melons with the musky, heavy orbs currently weighing down rickety tables at Bay Area farmers markets. A ripe melon (besides most watermelons) is a bit soft to the touch and emits a pleasantly musky, slightly fermented scent. When purchasing melons, I also check to make sure that there’s a light-colored spot somewhere on the skin. This means that the melon was left to ripen on the vine, in the field.
Our CSA proffers only stone fruit and berries (poor us), so I’ve been supplementing our weekly fruit allotment with all sorts of heirloom melons. Beyond the trifecta of watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe exists an incredible variety of melons. Like books, you really can’t judge an heirloom melon by its cover. Such was the case when I cracked a green-skinned watermelon and found yellow flesh inside! Heirloom watermelons never got the memo to go seedless, so prepare yourself for some deseeding…and maybe a seed spitting contest?
Although I’ve been plowing through a melon every few days, I reserved some for an easy appetizer I served at George’s birthday dinner party last weekend. The salty-sweet melon bites were a light and fitting start to the rest of the meal, a homemade burger bar that warrants its own post at a later time. This appetizer is easy, so I’m not going to write a formal recipe here. Simply cube the ripe melon of your choice, top with a small mint leaf and a chunk of good-quality (preferably brine-packed) feta cheese, and skewer the three ingredients together with a toothpick. Just before serving, drizzle the whole plate of them with syrupy balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with freshly-ground black pepper.