Melon, yes? Melon, no! (Food52)

The one-ingredient trick to make any bad melon much, much better

What is one to do with a bad melon?


Valerio Farris
July 14, 2018 8:29PM (UTC)
This story first appeared on Food52, an online community that gives you everything you need for a happier kitchen and home – that means tested recipes, a shop full of beautiful products, a cooking hotline, and everything in between!
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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.

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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.

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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.

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