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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Melon-wise, Santa Claus arrives early this year

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser
The Santa Claus melon (aka Christmas melon) is so called because its peak season is near Christmas. However, it is among a number of varieties that are available now through summer's end, including cantaloupes and muskmelons (now through August); cranshaws (July through October); honeydew and prince (through October); casaba, canary, ogen, galia and Persian melons (through November).

The Santa Claus is oblong with a skin of green, black and yellow in deep stripes. The flesh is pale green and sweet. Although some say this melon's key characteristic is its long shelf life, we liked the taste better than honeydew or cantaloupe. Good-quality Santa Claus melons are fairly large and firm, with a small amount of softness at the stem end. The skin has a slightly waxy feel when the melon is ripe. Santa Claus melons can keep several months uncut in the refrigerator. We found ours at a Honolulu Safeway store and held it for a couple of weeks and found it fresh-tasting and delicious. However, supply here is spotty.

Another new-to-us melon you might watch for is the one that food writers are raving about called the charentais, a small, round cream or light gray-colored melon with a segmented skin like a pumpkin, with greenish coloring along the segments. It's said to have a pretty floral aroma, complex fragrance and delicate flavor and it is one of France's most popular melons.

Choose melons that are heavy and free of bruises. Look at the navel, where the stem attached, to detect mold, excessive softness or evidence that may show when the melon was harvested. If a shriveled stem is still attached, it was picked too soon. Melons do not ripen after picking, and only keep for about two weeks after that, instead only growing softer. A melon's ripeness can sometimes be detected by a delicate aroma.

Sources: Fresh Direct, mycustompak.com, Produce Oasis, Lori Alden's "The Cook's Thesaurus."