Sweet, ripe, full, and tasty melons are a summer treat. Cantaloupe and watermelons are the most common melons that are seasonal favorites. The long days of summer make these melons become flavorful, sweet, and tasty.
There is nothing more disappointing than cutting open a melon to discover that it is too mushy or not yet ripe. Once cut, the melons end up being wasted if they do not and will not sweeten.
In Montana, we have very few local melons. Our short growing season prohibits great melons. This means that most melons need to be transported into our Big Sky Country. To do this, the melons are often picked too soon before they have fully ripened.
So, when is a melon ripe and at its best?
Watermelons First look at the melon to see if it has dark green colors. Knock on the melon and listen. If it sounds hollow, it is full of water. Now look at the end where it was connected to the vine. If it is green, the melon is not ripe and was picked too early. If the end is brown, it is ripened on the vine and is ready to eat. The final check to identify a mature melon is to see if a 2-finger gap is between the darker lines on the melon. Finally, look for a large yellow spot on the bottom of the melon, where it rested on the ground. Yellow means tis melon was ripened in the field and will taste perfect.
Cantaloupe First look at the color of the melon. You want to see a darker, tan color. The rind should be segmented and rough. Now look at the stem end. Use your thumbs to press at this spot. If it is too ripe, your thumbs will push into the soft melon too far. If it is not ripe, there is no movement. If you can press your thumbs and push in slightly, you have picked a winner. Finally, smell a room temperature melon. If it smells like a delicious melon, put it in your basket.
The final question about melons is do they taste better with or without salt? My choice is with salt. I enjoy a light sprinkle of sea salt atop my cool melons. Salt enhances the flavor and improves sweetness. To each their own!
Montana Melon Grant