Sunday, May 11, 2014

Melon Roulette

Galia melon
One of the more difficult produce-buying challenges is to pick a ripe melon. Even in late summer, when local muskmelons (canteloupes) and honeydews proliferate, selecting a ripe melon remains, at least to me, a crap shoot. I've read all about thumping, netting, color, smell and every other method of melon selection, but picking the perfect melon can still elude me.

It's even more of a challenge when local melons are not in season. But I still love them, so I'll frequently pick up a container of cut up mixed melons at Iovine Brothers Produce at the Reading Terminal Market. The out-of-season watermelons are almost always sub-par, but occasionally the canteloupes and honeydews are sweet and less than rock-hard.

So it was with trepedation that I picked up a Galia melon yesterday at Iovine's for $1.99. Today I cut it up this Israel-created hybrid now grown worldwide, especially Central America where this specimen came from. I detected only a little aroma from the melon, but the netting was distinct and developed, so I gave it a shot. Success! The Galia is sweet with subtle flavor, and soft, ripe flesh. It should hold up in its container in the fridge for two or three days, but my guess is it will be gone by tomorrow night.

My go-to fruit between apple and strawberry season in recent months has been pineapple. I buy the trimmed, ready-to-eat whole pineapples packed in plastic bags at Iovine's, and they hold up for more than a week in the fridge. I just knife slices off the top as I want them. With rare exceptions these pineapples have been sweet throughout, with no woody flesh.

Besides oranges, the only other fruit regularly in my diet over winter and early spring are frozen blueberries, particularly the "wild" low-bush "arboreal" berries from Canada and Maine. They have the same nutritional content and benefits as the commercial high-bush berries, but a slightly different flavor, which I prefer. I find the best deals on the frozen wild berries at Trader Joe's and usually consume them mashed into plain Greek yogurt.

Still, as much as I like these fruits, I look forward to the local berries; local strawberries should start appearing in farmers markets before the end of the month, given that most crops are running about a week or so behind normal after this year's harsh winter.

Today at Headhouse I picked up about a pound of rhubarb from Tom Culton. I stringed it (as you would celery), cut it into two-inch lengths then cooked it for about 15-20 minutes with a pint of water, half a cup of sugar, and the zest and juice from one juice orange. It's now in the fridge and I'll enjoy it for dessert after whisking the "soup" to break up the remaining soft chunks of rhubart and top it with some fresh whipped cream. The recipe comes courtesy of Mark Bittman.

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