Monday, August 16, 2010

Melons Madness

Hope you have your melon spoons ready. This week's melons include 2 kinds of cantaloupe. On the left is Hale's Best (golden on the inside), on the right is Rocky Ford, (Green on the inside).

The melon known in the United States as a cantaloupe or muskmelon (Cucumis melo reticulatus) is a member of the gourd family. The gourd family also includes honeydew, crenshaw, casaba, and Persian melons, as well as cucumbers, pumpkins, squashes, watermelons, and chayote.
Cantaloupes are thought to have originated in Africa. They were brought to North America in approximately the sixteenth century. These are a little bit fresher than that.

Storing Fresh Melon
The optimal storage temperature for ripe cantaloupe is 36º to 41ºF (2.2º to 5ºC). The optimum temperature for watermelon is 50 degrees. If possible, place melons in the refrigerator crisper, where the humidity tends to be higher.

Safety Tips for Handling Fresh Melon
Melons are grown in close contact with the ground, which may occasionally introduce bacterial contamination from soil, water, and animals. Although no e-coli has ever turned up at the farm...

Washing Melons
Melons should be washed just before preparing and eating. It is best not to wash melons before storage; this helps ensure a longer shelf life for the uncut fruit. Most bacteria can be removed by scrubbing the whole melon with a clean vegetable brush under clean running water. After washing, blot the melon with clean paper towels to remove excess water. Place on a clean surface, and cut off the stem end about 3⁄4 to 1 inch (19 to 25 mm) from the end.

No soap please!

Always peel, cover, and refrigerate cut melon. Refrigeration inhibits the growth of bacteria.


On the right, the other two melons for the week are Blacktail Watermelon shown left, developed in Idaho by Glen Downs. He was about 17 when he developed this melon.

On the right in the basket is Collective Farm Woman.

The original name of Collective Farm Woman is Kolkhoznitsa 749/753

It is a Russian pre-1940 CV bred by Biryuchekutskaya Vegetable Breeding Research Station, which is still located in the town Novocherkassk, in Rostov region of Russia (South of Russia near Black Sea). Now you know why they called it Collective Farm Woman. On the Brix scale this one rocks at 14! Sweet! Let me know what you think.

Shrimp Martini Ceviche

1 pound medium-size shrimp, deveined and peeled
10 limes, juiced* 

1 small chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 c. watermelon cubed

Freshly ground black pepper to taste 

Coarse salt to taste

Hot pepper sauce (optional)

* The amount of limes needed depends on how juicy they are. You want the lime juice to completely cover the shrimp.
Using a gallon jug, large glass bowl, or large re-sealable plastic bag, add shrimp, lime juice, and chili (juice should just cover seafood). Cover and shake. Refrigerate 10 to 15 hours, shaking or stirring occasionally. Shrimp are done when they are pink and opaque.

After shrimp mixture has marinated, add red onions, watermelon, mint, and pepper. Shake or stir; refrigerate until ready to serve.

Before serving, taste for hotness. If not hot enough, add a few drops of your favorite pepper sauce. To serve place mixture (with juice) into individual martini glasses.
NOTE: Ceviche does not keep well. It becomes rubbery and can be described as overcooked when it sits for over 24 hours. Make a batch only as big as you can eat in one meal.

Melon Smoothie
1/2 ripe cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1 cup milk or soy milk
1 cup vanilla ice cream or yogurt
1 cup crushed ice
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Makes about 4 cups.

Watermelon Lemonade
Makes enough to fill two glasses with ice cubes; we quadrupled it to fill a pitcher. We already need more.

1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup (4 ounces) fresh watermelon puree, strained through a coarse strainer to remove seeds
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) simple syrup*
3/4 cup (6 ounces) cold water

Stir it all together and serve over ice. Garnish it with a thin watermelon or lemon wedge, or, if you’re feeling fancy a sprig of mint.

"R" Version: My cousins thinks this taste evens better with vodka. One summer they served a watermelon full of this with a spigot in the melon.

* Make your own simple syrup: Simmer one part water with one part sugar (I did a cup of each and ended up with more than I needed for a quadruple batch) until sugar has dissolved. Let cool.

Frozen melon ball
1 cup of pineapple juice
juice from 1/2 a lime
1 cup of cubed melon
1-2 tablespoons of sugar (if you like it sweet),
and 1 cup of ice.
Pour into four chilled glasses.

Also, thanks all of you for your kind thoughts and words. My mother is finally out of the ICU. It will be a long road to recovery. The women in my family are tough old birds. I saw the car. I can't believe she's alive, let alone barking orders from her hospital bed. I warned the nurses to keep her sedated. She's going to be a handful. We're scoping out convalescent hospitals now. Anyone with a good recommendation, don't hesitate to give me a shout.

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