Melons don’t get the love they deserve. Watermelons—an undeniable symbol of summer—hog most of the glory but cantaloupes, honeydews, and even bitter melons offer a wide look into just how varied the melon world truly is.
Cantaloupes are a muskmelon staple in the precut fruit aisle. But for most of the year, they are bland echoes of their summer glory. The season’s best boast soft, orange fruit with an intensely sweet taste perfect in refreshing drinks, bright tarts, and even atop toast. At their best, ripe, smooth-skinned honeydews, with their pale green-tinged flesh, are firmer and even sweeter than their smaller, sunny-hued cousins. . Melons can be left to ripen at room temperature for several days, but to really experience their refreshing flavors on a hot day, chill them in the fridge before serving.
Bitter melons occupy a space unique to cucurbits and are nothing like their sweeter muskier sisters. Featuring an elongated, bumpy body, these vegetables boast a bitter, acerbic taste. Despite this, they hold a special place in Indian and Asian cuisines as a cooling, refreshing agent in dishes. Salting ahead of cooking leeches out the harsher tannins and tames the bitter melon, allowing it to be used as an exceptionally sharp ingredient in stir-fries, stews, curries, and even cocktails.
This over-the-top architectural dessert (also known as brick toast) is popular in tea shops and casual restaurants in Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore. The dish is meant to be shared with a friend (or three) and the more color, texture, and height the better, so don't skimp on the garnishes. Cookies, seasonal fruit, and candy are typical ingredients, but sprinkles, nuts, and flavored syrups are not unheard of. Get the recipe for Shibuya Honey Toast »
The simple pairing of cantaloupe and port could be found on the menu of any classic mid-century French restaurant. The best melon to use is the French Charentais, which is small and slightly acidic (though still sweet), but it's just as good with a musk or hand melon or cantaloupe. Get the recipe for Melon au Porto »
Test kitchen director Farideh Sadeghin got the recipe for this refreshing melon drink from her Iranian-born father, who makes it by grating fresh cantaloupe and combining it with water, sugar, and fresh mint. You can add a little gin for a cooling summer cocktail. Get the recipe for Persian Cantaloupe Drink »
In this elegant dessert, cantaloupe is grilled until it caramelizes and is then dressed with agrodolce, a sour-sweet Italian sauce made by reducing vinegar and sugar. Get the recipe for Grilled Cantaloupe with Peach Agrodolce »
Indian thandai, literally translated as 'something that cools', is a sweet, creamy milk drink flavored with nuts and mixed with spices such as cardamom, fennel, rose petals, and poppy seeds. On Holi, the Indian festival of colors, the refreshment is traditionally served with the addition of bhaang (a derivative of marijuana). Here we've substituted gin instead, which accentuates the nutty, warmly-spiced, floral flavors in thandai perfectly. Get the recipe for Thandai »
A sprinkle of sea salt enhances the sweetness of cantaloupe marinated in honey and spices. Get the recipe for Black Pepper and Honey-Marinated Cantaloupe with Basil »
Wedges of gooey fried Camembert are served with both a sweet wine-spiked raspberry jam and a tart cranberry vinaigrette in this dish. Get the recipe for Fried Camembert with Ham, Melon, and Cranberry Vinaigrette »
The extracted juice from bitter melons takes the place of common bittering agents, such as Campari, in this floral, lime-punched cocktail. Get the recipe for Green Gin Cocktail »
One of the most popular snacks on the streets of Mexico is fresh fruit dusted with chile powder. The flavors and aromas of that snack are brought back in this tequila-based drink. Get the recipe for The Borderline Escape »