What's In Season at the Farmers Markets: Pickling Cukes, Corn, Concords, and How to Keep Them
Butterscotch melon from Weiser Family Farms
He likes round produce. Sure, there's the occasional baskets of Spanish padrone peppers, bunches of torpedo onions -- and does anyone else remember the crosnes? But push that aside and you have Alex Weiser's rainbow assortment of heirloom potatoes and, come summer, a stack of intensely aromatic melons. Weiser cuts them open and angles them like ray guns on top of low mounds of fruit. A totally unnecessary tactic. Enough people have succumbed to their sweet perfume over the years that all it takes is the sight of them to prompt a sale.
Weiser Family Farms' melon varieties hail from all over the world -- we're currently anticipating the cavaillon melons -- super aromatic with a lime green, lobed skin reminiscent of French charentais-type melons. But we'll "settle" for the butterscotch melon. Think caramel honeysuckle. Or, as the name suggests, butterscotch pudding with a sugary gardenia scent. And the flavor is buttery -- silky smooth flesh that, when fully ripe, offers no resistance and is as juicy as a ripe peach. Weiser will have melons in for the rest of summer, and we fully recommend trying a new one each week. But the butterscotch shouldn't be missed.
Selecting the right melon at Weiser's booth isn't hard: He sells them at perfect ripeness for immediate enjoyment. But it's still good to be discerning. There are a few telltale signs to look for.
1. Note the skin: All melons have their own trademark phenotypes. Some come with rough, netted skin; while others, like the butterscotch, are smooth and icy pale green or blue. Super ripe melons will have some splitting at the blossom end. This is fine for same-day eating, but check to be sure those cracks aren't actually the entry point for pests. Bruising is also easy to see: Avoid it.
2. Touch the blossom end: We're loathe to recommend squeezing of any kind to market-goers. It brings to mind a scene from Tampopo that made us want to scream. But it is a great way to tell if a melon is not ripe, just ripe, or too ripe. Press lightly on the blossom end. It should be firm, but have a little give, like a perfect avocado.
3. Smell it: A good melon should be musky and fragrant, especially at the blossom end. If it smells yeasty or like alcohol, fermentation has set in, which can happen with high sugar varieties in a warm climate. A good melon should smell floral and sweet.
If your melon meets these three requirements, you have a winner. The butterscotch is a small single-user melon and it'll be tempting to buy several. Unless you're planning to eat them all within a few days -- don't. They ferment quickly at room temperature and become mealy in the refrigerator. Buy what you'll eat, and then come back the following week for more.
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