Melons are a complete flavour burst on their own but with a little bit of sugar and spice, they get even better. Why not try it out yourself this summer?
The main melons found in SA stores are watermelons, spanspek (known as sweet melons or cantaloupe) and honey melon. Fresh produce markets often sell more “exotic” melons such as the tiny tart cucamelon (great in salads and salsas) and the zany-looking, but very nutritious, bitter melon.
November, December and January bring the best quality melons into stores. Feel like something’s missing? You’re not alone if you thought papaya (or pawpaw) was part of the melon family – turns out, papaya is a berry! Melons provide light, sweet and refreshing flavour and texture as a snack, in a drink or as part of a salad.
Often paired with sweet flavours, their reputation has only grown since chefs and foodies experimented with coupling them with savoury flavours. In our spanspek salad recipe, we play with sweet, salty and tangy by bringing salami and balsamic vinegar into the mix.
Other recipes include spanspek in salsas, creamy pasta and even in bread. Although we’ve focused on sweet recipes for watermelon, it also pairs brilliantly with salty elements like feta, protein like chicken, and the flavours of onion, rocket, cucumber and avocado.
Pick the perfect ripe melon
Keep an eye out for the discoloured patch on its rind (this marks where it grew on the ground): it should be a bright yellow colour.
- Give it a knock: it should sound light and hollow.
- Check for beige, dry strips on the skin: these form when sugar residue seeps out from the melon before harvesting.
- Any good quality melon should feel heavy and full in your hands.
Spanspek and salami salad
A refreshing balance of sweet, salty and tangy.
2 punnets (180g each) assorted tomatoes
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
½ clove garlic, grated
½ sweet melon, peeled
2 packets (100g each) baby spinach
1 packet (20g) wild rocket
12 slices salami
Handful basil leaves, torn
Salt and milled black pepper
- Halve tomatoes and toss in a bowl with vinegar, oil and garlic.
- Cover and marinate for 30 minutes.
- Slice melon into wedges and arrange on a serving platter with spinach and wild rocket.
- Scatter over tomatoes and drizzle with marinade.
- Top salad with salami and basil then season well before serving.
Kick off a gathering on a fresh note with this twist on the classic mimosa.
½ watermelon (to make 6-8 cups of juice)
750ml sparkling wine
Juice from 3 limes
Handful fresh mint leaves
160g fresh raspberries (optional)
- Remove rind and seeds from watermelon and cut flesh into chunks.
- Add flesh to a blender and blitz until smooth, then pass through a fine sieve to remove pulp. It should make 6-8 cups of juice.
- Combine watermelon juice, sparkling wine and lime juice in a jug.
- Serve in glasses filled with ice, fresh mint leaves and raspberries, if you like.
Watermelon and raspberry fro-yo
Enjoy these scoops of fro-yo while relaxing next to the pool.
2 cups double-cream strawberry yoghurt cup honey
2 punnets (100g each)
Sugar cones (optional)
- Slice watermelon and discard rind.
- Cube and deseed flesh. You should have a total of 1.5kg left.
- Add flesh to a blender and blitz to make juice. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding pulp.
- Return watermelon juice to blender along with yoghurt, honey and raspberries. Blend until smooth.
- Pour into a 3.5L resealable container and freeze for 8 hours or overnight.
- A few hours before serving, remove fro-yo mixture, blitz and return to container.
- Refreeze until fi rm (at least 3 hours).
- Serve scoops in bowls or on sugar cones or blitz a third time to create a fro-yo soft -serve.
Words: Sjaan van der Ploeg
Photography: Fresh Living Magazine