Three Cantaloupes to Love: Baby French, Ogen, Sugar Cube

When I was growing up, the sight of a cantaloupe on the kitchen counter was never a good sign. It meant that someone (Mom) must not be pleased with her weight (or mine) and that cottage cheese was to follow. Sadly, for most of my life I’ve since had taste and texture issues with cantaloupe (and don’t even get me started on cottage cheese). Most of the melons you find at the supermarket are cold, hard, and flavorless. But all my prejudices against cantaloupe fell away several years ago when I came upon Cavaillon melons.

These tender, sweet melons can be hard to find. Here in San Diego, Chino Farms grows and sells them and Specialty Produce sells those grown by Weiser Family Farms.

If you can't get your hands on a Cavaillon melon, there are several other delicious cantaloupes in season and available locally. Here are three more of my favorites:

Baby French
These sweet little things—no bigger than a softball and often smaller—are a cross of Anana and Charentais melons. Except for their size, they look like conventional cantaloupes, but have a deep orange color and astounding sweetness. I like to sprinkle them with a pinch of Marash pepper flakes to cut the sugar. These are at Specialty Produce for $2 each.

I love these heirloom melons, sometimes known as Israel cantaloupe (they originally were cultivated in the 1960s in an Israeli kibbutz named Ogen). Ogens have a distinctive vibrant yellow-and-green mottled skin with bold deep stripes running from end to end. The flesh is green and has a very sweet floral flavor. Add them to a summer salad and balance the sweetness with acid. They’re $2.95 apiece at Specialty Produce.
Sugar Cube
This “personal-sized” melon was clearly named for its high sugar content. The flesh is a deep orange in contrast to the pale netting of its skin and the thin circle of green between them. This melon is perfect for making ice cream, smoothies, or a granita. Again, it’s available at Specialty Produce, for $2.95 apiece.

Eat them fresh (with plenty of napkins!); wrap slices in prosciutto or Jamón Serrano or Ibérico; skewer chunks with bocconcini mozzarella (the tiny bite-sized balls) and other melons, fresh figs, and mint; or make a thick chilled soup with a yogurt base. I found all of these at Specialty Produce, but check out the local farmers markets, Jimbo’s, and Whole Foods to see if they happen to have any.

So, what are your favorite cantaloupe varieties and how do you use them?

Photos by Caron Golden

About the Author: There's not much that award-winning food writer Caron Golden enjoys more than discovering unique edibles at the markets--and then turning them into memorable meals for friends and family. The official journey began with her blog, San Diego Foodstuff, and has expanded to include writing for national publications like Saveur  and as well as appearances on KPBS radio. Unofficially, it began with Mom and Dad, who still think hanging out at 99 Ranch is the world's best entertainment. Follow Caron on Twitter at @carondg.

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