Queen Anne’s pocket melon is one of many heirloom varieties slowly making its way to the commercial market. Heirloom melons are a category to watch to enhance your menu with a creative touch, Gulliksen says.
According to legend, Queen Anne of England carried these melons in her pockets as perfumed sachets. History does not record which Queen Anne used them in this way, but offering these melons and describing their fragrant lore no doubt will foster lively table conversation. These melons also are known as plumgrannies and are available July through October.
“Queen Anne’s pocket melons are about the size of an egg. They are yellow and orange variegated and super aromatic,” Gulliksen says. Their flavor is very light honeydewlike. She suggests using the fruit in a lobster or shellfish salad and serving it in the colorful rind. For a miniature melon dessert, fill the rinds with ice cream.
Ha’Ogen melons are another heirloom variety. Originating in Israel, these melons are about the size of a softball and are available late June through mid-October. The rind is golden yellow with green stripes while the flesh is green with tinged salmon color around the seed cavity. Ha’Ogen melons combine the flavors of guava and banana, says Alexander Weiser, owner of Weiser Family Farms, Lucerne Valley, Calif. “It’s a very tasty, aromatic melon with a spicy flavor.”
“You could use (the melon) in anything that you use honeydew for, but it tastes a thousand times better. It tastes like lime and apricot blossom. It’s very tropical,” Gulliksen says.
Santa Claus melons are known for their long shelf life and mild, sweet flavor. Also known as Christmas melons, they can be stored uncut for several months, even up to the Christmas holiday, though the season usually runs June through September. That puts them at a disadvantage, Gulliksen says. “They are never, ever sold ripe, so they get a bad rap,” she says. At retail, their flesh likely will be white, which indicates the fruit has not fully ripened to its normal gold tinge with green to solid green flesh.
Sharlyne melons look like an elongated cantaloupe with a thinner, netted rind. Their flavor is a cross between honeydew and cantaloupe, Schueller says. “They are always a popular seasonal fruit in foodservice,” he adds. Its season runs June through September.
The pale green to white flesh is extremely sweet and edible down to the rind. Eat it alone, or for added flavor, sprinkle ginger, salt and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice over it. It also makes a good ingredient for tropical drinks such as daiquiris.