(July 21) Cool, juicy melons symbolize summer and can lighten and brighten your menu. But if your melon repertoire primarily features honeydew, watermelon and cantaloupe, consider adding some specialty varieties.
The colors, aromas and flavors of such specialty varieties as butterscotch, eden’s gem, ha’ogen and charantais will differentiate your menu and may reveal some signature summer dishes for your establishment.
EXPLORE THE OPTIONS
Check with specialty suppliers for eye-catching rinds, brilliant interior colors, unusual flavors and interesting names.
Charantais melons are the size of a large softball and have a honeylike flavor. Sometimes called the French breakfast melon, charantais melons are available from January through May. The rind is tan with green stripes, and the flesh is vivid orange. The smaller size makes the rind of the charantais ideal for hollowing and using as a holding vessel, Faulkner says. Combine these melons with raspberries, blackberries and strawberries and garnish with star fruit slices to create a unique salad.
Although somewhat new to the U.S., charantais melons represent a host of varieties, says Gwen Kvavli Gulliksen, division vice president for Pro*Act Specialties-Harvest Sensations, Los Angeles. “What we see here in the United States is one of many varieties. I think the charantais melon will develop into its own right, and you’ll start seeing more varieties in the future,” she says.
Miniwatermelons let your customers enjoy the flavor of classic watermelon in a novel way. “Miniwatermelons are perfect because they’re personal-sized and seedless. They also have good eye appeal and the flavor’s great,” Faulkner says.
The small size means less waste, says Robert Schueller, assistant marketing director for Melissa’s/World Variety Produce Inc., Los Angeles. Although harvest peaks in the summer, miniwatermelons are gradually becoming available year-round, he adds.
Use miniwatermelons in cold soups or serve watermelon balls in the rind. Chris Faulkner, corporate chef for Melissa’s, has carved various designs to accent the dish, including flowers, palm trees and words.
Sprite melons are another smaller melon abundant during the summer. The 4- to 5-inch diameter melons weigh from 1 to 1.5 pounds each and make a convenient single-serving size. Its flavor is a blend of pear, honeydew and watermelon. The flesh is white and crisp, similar to an apple. The rind turns from cream to white or mottled with yellow when ripe. Several brown, concentric cracks may appear at the stem end. These indicate a high sugar content, Schueller says. The melon’s sugar content can reach as high as 18%, about 5% higher than other varieties.