Summer fruit: Aussie melons
There’s little that’s more refreshing than a chilled slice of melon on a hot day. Melons of all varieties are available year-round, but their supply peaks in summer. So now is the perfect time to avail yourself of these sweet, juicy fruits. Melons like watermelon, rockmelon and honeydew – as well as newer varieties such as Piel de Sapo and Orange Candy – are produced in every mainland Australian state. Around 250 growers churn out an average of 230,000 tonnes of melons each year. And you’ll be please to know that the vast majority of melons you’ll find in stores are Aussie-grown.
“You can be 99 percent certain that when you’re picking up any variety of melon in the supermarket or the fresh fruit grocer that it’s grown and produced in Australia,” says Melons Australia Executive Officer, Johnathon Davey. Good to know!
Good gourd, they’re nutritious
The nutritional content of the various types of melons differs slightly, but what they all have in common is that they’re surprisingly nutritious. Rockmelons are an excellent source of vitamin A, a potent antioxidant and immunity booster; vitamin C, which supports collagen production and the immune system; and potassium, which helps maintain the health of the kidneys, bones and cardiovascular system. Honeydew melons are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. They contain more sugar than a rockmelon but less than a watermelon.
Watermelons are a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium and iron. Watermelons also contain high levels of lycopene. This powerful antioxidant is only found in a small number of fruits and vegies. International studies have found that people who eat high lycopene diets had a much lower risk of developing certain cancers, especially prostate cancer among men. The redder the melon, the more lycopene the watermelon contains.
Whole, uncut, good quality rockmelons are firm and free of blemishes. Look for melons with no cuts or sunken spots on the surface, and an even netting around the entire melon without any “bald” patches. The rockmelons grown in Australia today don’t have an aroma, so smelling the base of the melon won’t indicate whether it is ripe.
Whole, uncut, good quality watermelons are firm and free of blemishes. If the part of the watermelon that was sitting on the ground,is distinctly white or yellow, then the watermelon was picked when ripe. When tapped with a finger they have a sharp ring.
White/cream honeydew melons should have smooth, waxy skin. Immature fruit feels “hairy”. Some varieties have a slight aroma. The flower or blossom end of the honeydew melon (opposite the stem end) should give very slightly when light thumb pressure is used. If it gives a lot or has a strong aroma, the fruit is overripe.
Safe and sweet
Aussie melons are also produced under the Safe Melons program. This provides the melon industry with a best practice guide to reduce the risk of microbial contamination.
“Rockmelon and honeydew, for example, undergo a cleaning process before getting to market,” Davey says. “The Safe Melons program is about setting the standards of what we expect from growers by way of the cleaning process and the handling process.
“It also gives growers the confidence that they’re producing a safe product for consumers. It’s something that we take a lot of pride in.”
So when you buy fresh melons, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that they’re clean, green and Australian. You’ll also be helping to give a little back to the growers who give so much.
For more on Aussie melons, including recipes, go to the Melons Australia website.