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A FRESH Point of View: Delicious, Exotic Melons

Most of us grew up eating watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew, the most popular melons in the U.S. But there’s a whole world of exotic and specialty melons out there, and they’ve been sweeping into American markets the last few years.

The names may be unfamiliar – Hami and Juan Canary sound like names of islands, not a fruit  – but these specialty melons are absolutely delicious. They’re often even sweeter, juicier and more fragrant than the familiar melons you already know and love. Here at FRESH, we’re carrying a number of melons you ought to try this summer:

Santa Claus: Green and football-shaped, this melon is also sometimes called a Christmas melon. (Beats me why, though I’ve heard it was because originally, they were harvested very late in the growing season, even into December). They have a pale flesh that’s quite  sweet and mild, and because the rind is hard, an uncut Santa Claus melon will keep for weeks in your fridge.

Juan Canary: As bright yellow as a canary on the outside, the inner flesh is pale cream or very light green. It’s usually even sweeter than a honeydew.

Crenshaw: A hybrid of two other specialty melons, the Casaba and the Persian, this one has a rind that may be either yellowish or creamy white. Cut it open, and the flesh is pinkish-orange. It tastes similar to a cantaloupe, but is even sweeter, with a little bit of a hard-to-describe spicy undertone.

Hami: Originally from China, this one is crisp like a honeydew, but juicier, more like a ripe cantaloupe.

Casaba: The ridged, almost wrinkly rind on this one is bright yellow when ripe. They are just mildly sweet, but like the Santa Claus melon, they are not very fragile and have a long shelf life.

Orange-flesh honeydew: One of my favorite melons, this one is super-sweet, juicy and fragrant, combining all the best qualities of cantaloupe and honeydew.

Honeybliss: This honeydew hybrid looks much like a regular honeydew, with a creamy white rind and interior fruit that is pale, pale green. The texture is similar to a cantaloupe but to me these taste sweeter, almost like they’ve been brushed with honey.

Tuscan cantaloupe: Though it bears an Italian name, this melon is actually a cross between French melon varieties and American cantaloupe. The rind has the familiar mottled surface of a cantaloupe, but it’s sectioned off by deep, green grooves. And the taste? Really sweet, like melons you’d pluck out of your own garden, if you had one.