Melons hold so much promise. Their thick outer shell — be it green and striped, or tan and crackly like the desert floor — hides a sweet, tantalizing mystery. They bulb up on the ends of vines like basketballs swollen by the press of a foot pump.
During the summer, I can imagine no better dessert than a melon. Watermelon on the beach, honeydews in my backyard, cantaloupes sliced at a barbecue and eaten with orange smiles. Cutting into a melon is like a drumroll: You slice with anticipation, suspense. How will it look? How will it taste? A smell test, a knock on the skin, a push of the thumb into the exterior can tell you only so much about a melon’s quality. The moment of truth comes after the whole thing’s been sliced and separated.
If you’re lucky, a melon is sweet and juicy, so moist it runs in rivulets down your forearm, dripping off your elbow like a stalagtite. However, if you’re unlucky, when you bite into that melon it’ll taste like water: flavorless, boring, lacking in sugar. The curse of a not-good melon is a bad one.
What is one to do with a bad melon?
Sure, you could toss it. Shove your guilt down your throat faster than a competitive hot dog eater and just put the whole thing in the garbage. Or you could muscle through a bad experience, numb your taste buds and wolf down what’s left of your horrible melon.
Or? Reach for a condiment. There’s actually a way to make a bad melons taste, well, better. And it’s all thanks to one ingredient: salt.
Hear me out. This trick comes to me from my grandfather, who grew cantaloupes in his backyard. Every so often he’d get unlucky and harvest a melon that just wasn’t cutting it. Rather than throw the melon out (this from the man who could make a single paper towel sheet last hours), he'd reach into a tiny table side salt cellar and pinch out a bit. He'd rub some salt across his slice of melon with his forefinger.
Initially, I was doubtful, but after trying it out, I saw that he was onto something. The salt brings out what little flavor a bad melon has and compensates for any lack of sweetness. It works, truly—trust me.
Since, I've introduced this idea to the office, and it turns out there are even other ways to gussy up an otherwise drab melon. Some swear by a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. This complements the inherent anti-flavor going on and provides a kick where there wasn’t one before. Others swear by Tajín, a spicy, lime-y seasoning that hails from Mexico. One editor mentioned herbs like mint. Three suggestions I’ll be turning to in the near future (although I hope I don’t have to!).
All this to say that a bad, boring, bland-tasting melon isn’t the end of things. And it most definitely shouldn’t be destined for the trash. Give one of the above suggestions a shot, and you won't regret it.