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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Melons - Summer's Hefty Healers

In the market yesterday, three out of five people in line were lugging one of these massive fruits through the check out line.

But, reading from my Food Lover's Companion, I learned that watermelons, since they lack flavor complexity and have a watery texture, are considered the "least sophisticated" of the melon varieties. Once again, I came to the conclusion that Mt. Shasta folks are just not very sophisticated.

There are two broad categories of melon, the muskmelon and the watermelon, each of which has many varieties. The muskmelon varieties (the sophisticated ones) which include canteloupes, honeydews, casabas and crenshaws, have seeds that are contained within the hollow cavity in the center of the fruit. Watermelon varieties, on the other hand, have seeds that are dispersed throughout the flesh.

Melons of all kinds are hefty healing fruits. They contain large amounts of anti-oxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamins A and C for immune health. They have a high potassium content, which is important for the nerves and muscles. All varieties have cooling properties for the body in the middle of a hot summer.

Hieroglyphics dating back nearly 2,500 hundred years ago show that Egyptians knew the pleasures of these sensuous fruits of the vine even then. At that time, though, melons were much smaller and were less sweet. It wasn't until the renaisannce period that they were transformed into the sweet juicy summertime fruits that we are so accustomed to today.

All parts of the melon can be used--Asians love the roasted seeds, and the pickled rind is a favorite in many parts of the world.

Choose melons that are heavy for their size and that have a sweet frangrance. Canteloupes should have a well-raised “netting” and yield to slight pressure at the blossom end. Avoid immature fruits, since melons do not ripen after picking.

Bibliography:
The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia; Rebecca Wood
The New Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst


Melon and Basil Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings

This cold soup is cooling and sweet. The basil and lime kick-start the sweetness of the melon, making it a perfect refreshment for the mid-summer heat. This soup should be eaten by itself as a light lunch or an afternoon repast, as melon is hard to digest when eaten with other foods.

2 canteloupes or other variety muskmelon, seeded
4-6 tablespoons unfiltered honey
3/4 cup water
Zest (grated peel) and juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
Fresh baby basil leaves, for garnish

Using a melon baller, scoop out 10-15 balls from the melons for the garnish. Cover the balls and refrigerate until needed.

Scoop out the remaining melon flesh from the rinds and place in a food processor or blender. Add in 4 tablespoons of honey, the water, lime zest and juice. Blend until smooth.

Remove the soup to a large bowl and stir in the minced basil. Taste for sweetness, adding 1-2 tablespoons honey, if desired. Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours to allow the flavors to develop. When ready to serve, transfer the soup to shallow serving bowls and garnish with the melon balls and baby basil leaves.

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