In the middle of the summer a lot of e-mails arrive in my Kitchen Shrink inbox asking the same question, “is there a secret to finding a melon that is sweet and flavorful.”
While that’s not so easy in the winter when melons come from far away as it is now that they are coming from closer to home and have the opportunity to spend a little more time on the vine. But, no matter the season there are some clues to look for. You should look for a firm (not spongy), plump melon with no spots or flat areas and a clean scar on the stem end. When melons are ripe, they separate naturally from the stem, so it shouldn’t look as if it was cut or twisted off the vine. Although Persian and Crenshaw melons may show some green on the skin, cantaloupes should be tan or yellow and honeydews should be cream-colored not green. If you sniff the blossom end it should be aromatic. If you can’t smell anything, then it probably isn’t ripe and won’t develop much sweetness or flavor as it matures.