Originally published Jul7 5, 2007
Do a Google search on the phrase “Indiana Cantaloupe” and you will get some hits, but only about the science of growing a Hoosier melon. That’s fine. We need that sort of information, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is talking, at least on the Internet, about the taste of an Indiana cantaloupe and they should be!
As far as crop production goes, Indiana ranks fifth with Sullivan, Knox, Gibson, and Jackson County as our top producers. The other melon-producing states are in the warmer climates of both coasts and Texas, leaving Indiana as the heartland’s primary producer. But, enough with the statistics. Let’s move on the taste.
Indiana melon’s show up at roadside stands, farmer’s markets, and some grocery stores the first week of July and we’ll see them for about six weeks. A melon that was picked from the vine yesterday and then had just a short ride to your friendly neighborhood market is going to taste much better than one that came clear across country. It is like the difference between an in-season tomato right from your garden and one from the grocery store in January. One bite and you’ll be reminded that this is what a cantaloupe is supposed to taste like. If your not sure, if your market’s melon came from Indiana, ask. If they say no, tell them you would like to see them carry them in season.
Cantaloupes are one of those foods that are so good, you don’t really monkey with them too much. Slice then up and your pretty much ready to go. Eat them on their own or add some other fruits for a fruit salad. There are a couple of simple preparations that I really like and both are Italian. If your wondering why the Italians do some interesting things with cantaloupe, it’s because that is where the fruit came from. The name comes from a hill-nestled commune near Tivoli called Cantalupo in Sabina.
One deliciously simple Italian way to eat cantaloupe is with Prosciutto di Parma, a thinly sliced Italian ham. Small pieces of cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto make an elegant summertime appetizer. Another of my favorite ways to eat cantaloupe is in a granita, an Italian ice that is very simple to make. This is a terrific light and cool dessert, It also makes for a great palate-cleansing intermezzo course for an elegant dinner party.
This recipe uses some honey and mint to complement the flavor of the melon. So, grab an Indiana cantaloupe or two this weekend, It won’t be long until we’ll have to once again settle for the long-distance variety.
Honey Mint Syrup
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup mint leaves
Add all ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes to allow time for the oils from the mint leaves to be extracted. Remove from the heat and pour through a strainer (to remove the mint leaves) into a sealable container. This can be sealed and kept in the refrigerator to be used as needed. This makes more than will be needed in the granita. You’ll find other uses for it. It is delicious as a tea sweetener.
- 1 large Indiana cantaloupe
- 1/4 cup honey mint syrup (see above)
- Mint sprigs, for garnish
Cut the melon in half, remove the seeds, scoop out the flesh, and place in a food processor. Add 1/4 cup of the honey syrup and pulse until the flesh is liquefied. Pour the mixture into a 13x9 inch glass baking pan and place in the freezer. After about one hour, the mixture will have just started to freeze, remove from the freezer and use a fork to stir it around a bit, breaking up any large pieces of ice that have started to form. Place back into the freezer for another two hours.
When ready to serve, scrape the surface of the frozen mixture with a fork and use an ice cream scoop to put the granita into small chilled martini or Champaign glasses or small glass bowls. Garnish each serving with a couple fresh mint leaves. This recipe will yield 6-8 servings.