Muskmelon musings as the start of fall nears

Muskmelon musings as the start of fall nears

Fall is in the air, and that means many families are busy with school activities and attending the fair. Agricultural fairs have been around for many years and allow merchants to share their products, the competition of livestock and main events for the public. I hope if you make it to the fair, you realize the many hours that have been invested by families across the county.

For many families it means meal time may resort to items that are quick to prepare, and the following information may be helpful to you. Emily Marrison is the family and consumer sciences educator in Coshocton County and a member of the state food preservation team with me. She shared the following details that I hope you will find helpful:

Ohio melons can be divided into two types — watermelons and muskmelons. Muskmelons include cantaloupe and honeydew. I find this very interesting because I grew up using the words muskmelon and cantaloupe interchangeably, but I never considered honeydew to be muskmelon.

Many people seem to have their own rituals and rules of thumb when it comes to melon selection. Here are a few things to consider.

Cantaloupe should have a prominent, evenly distributed corky netting that is buff or light tan. The background color can be green, yellow or gray. The stem end should be smooth and slightly sunken. The blossom end should give slightly when pressed. A ripe melon will have a sweet, musky aroma.

Honeydew should be creamy yellow when picked. A green melon will never ripen. The skin may have a velvety feel. Like cantaloupe, the blossom end will be slightly springy when pressed.

The Watermelon Promotion Board suggests the look, lift and turn method. Look a watermelon over for bruises or dents. Lift it to make sure it is heavy for its size. Then turn it over to look for a creamy yellow spot that indicates it sat on the ground while ripening in the sun. If you insist on thumping, patting or knocking, then a melon that sounds like a “ping” may be unripe while a “pong” may indicate it is ready.

There are many benefits to eating melon. An entire cup contains only 45-60 calories, and it is rich in vitamins A and C. Red watermelon also is rich in the phytonutrient lycopene associated with protection against several types of cancer.

Before cutting a melon, scrub the rind with a soft-bristled brush while rinsing with cool, running water. Melon must be refrigerated after cutting and can be stored for up to one week.

If your extent of eating melon includes slices or cubes or little melon balls, then you are not alone. But the possibilities of cooking with melon are endless. I was able to meet the Florida watermelon queen this summer and learned about It is an amazing website from the Watermelon Promotion Board full of recipes for main dishes, sides and desserts. Some of my favorites are roasted salmon with watermelon salsa, spiralized cucumber and watermelon salad, and watermelon glazed meatballs. Watermelon can even be grilled or pan-fried in a savory sauce to taste like tuna. Who knew?

And don’t forget the watermelon rind is edible. There is a lot of fiber packed in this often discarded part of the melon. You could try watermelon rind pickles or bruschetta. The website even has a whole section of creative ways to carve a watermelon rind from dinosaur shapes to holiday party masterpieces. There also are lots of great recipes for muskmelon from the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board at

You can learn more about serving melons by viewing a recording of the Savoring Ohio Produce - Melons webinar, which Marrison co-taught recently with Kate Shumaker of OSU Extension’s Holmes County office, at There is still one more live webinar left in this series. Tuesday, Sept. 20 is about potatoes from 4-5 p.m. Register at

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension family and consumer sciences educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722 or

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