Dan talks to us today about Produce 101: Melons
Few things are as delicious as perfectly ripe melon, but the challenge is how do you pick the perfect one?
Produce 101: Melons – Selecting
Look for melons that are heavy for their size and free from bruising and defects. Once picked, a melon’s sugar is set and won’t develop any additional sugar—though a cantaloupe will soften a bit when allowed to sit out. They do not get riper.
Press gently on the stem end and it should give to gentle pressure. Smell the flower end and look for a sweet, melon aroma. The nose knows. When a melon is grown and allowed to fully mature, they will emit and sweet, almost floral aroma, signaling you that an incredible gastronomic experience awaits.
Watermelons are a little different, as they really don’t have a tell-tale aroma, but they do have a revealing spot. Look for watermelons with a large yellow spot, this indicates the watermelon was left on the vine longer and allowed to mature, if you see it you know you will be duly rewarded.
The old adage of thumping a watermelon is not the best way to select a melon, but it does work sometimes.
Keep in mind that certain times of the year—mainly when heavy rains have occurred, will see hollow heart. Hollow heart is where the center of the melon splits, thus the hollow sound when thumped, so that really is not a great way to select a melon.
Produce 101: Melons – Storage
All melons are susceptible to chill damage, but the cantaloupes can be stored at colder temperatures than honeydews or watermelons. Cantaloupes also produce ethylene, and honeydews and watermelons are both ethylene sensitive, so keep them apart in storage.
- They like to be colder than the other two. Keep them in in the back (1)
- They don’t like temperature fluctuations. While it won’t hurt them, it may cause the flesh to deteriorate and become mealy.
- They easily damage when handled roughly, avoid dropping the cases or stacking too much weight on top.
- They produce ethylene. Keep them away from sensitive items.
Honeydew and Watermelon tips
- They are not a sensitive to chill damage, like cantaloupe. They like it a little warmer, keep them in the middle (2).
- Honeydews and watermelons are both ethylene sensitive, so keep them apart in storage to prolong their respective shelf lives.
Produce 101: Melons — What is Brix?
Aside from the physical appearance grading, the USDA also adds an internal testing component called “Brix” measurement. Brix is the measurement of sugar crystals in the water content in fruit. It is done with a refractometer.
A few drops of juice are applied to the glass and then viewed through the eyepiece to read the measurement. You can learn more about the technical aspects and how refractometers are used here.
Brix measurement is not just used for melons, winemakers use it to test their grapes, and it is also used to check the sweetness in other items, like honey.
Brix gives us a good baseline on how long that fruit was allowed to ripen and if the melon is ready to eat. Depending on the variety, the typical Brix of melons should start around 10-11%, where 14% would be quite sweet for most palates.
The higher the number, the sweeter the melon. Good to know: a higher number doesn’t always mean better. Too high a Brix and it’s just too sweet, as well as the flesh can be mealy.
Produce 101: Melons – Grades
The USDA has multiple grade specs based on both external and internal factors (ripeness). Internally is Brix, discussed above. Externally is grades, see below.
- US Fancy
- US #1
- US Commercial
- US #2
- US Commercial
- US #2
- US Fancy
- US #1
- US #2
Look for melons that are free from pitting/bruising and have appropriate varietal shell color.
Produce 101: Melons – Use
Melons can be used in myriad of applications, both sweet and savory. Consider using items that are slightly salty for an amazing contrast to the sweet melon, such as the classic dish of prosciutto and melon.
Dan discusses Produce 101: Melons
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Content provided by Chef Daniel Snowden, the Director of Culinary Development for FreshPoint Central Florida. He has been in the produce industry years almost 20 years, and loves getting geeky about food. Follow FreshPoint Central Florida on Facebook and Instagram. Additional contributions by Lisa Pettineo.
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