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Honeydews

After cantaloupes and watermelons, probably the most familiar melons to Americans are honeydews, which are available in to the winter months. The rind is very smooth, greenish white to yellow in color, and the flesh is a cool lime green. An unripe honeydew is terrible, but a ripe one is probably the sweetest melon of all - and the prettiest. Honeydew is definitely one of my favorite melons.

All too often it's difficult to find a ripe honeydew, but it's not difficult to pick out a ripe one. The rind will develop a golden color and will actually become sticky outside. Never be afraid of a honeydew that has developed a bit of brown freckling on the rind - that's where it's tacky with sugar. The other clue to a ripe honeydew is a sweet, heady aroma. People tend to check the stem end of the melon to see if it's soft, but that's not going to tell you a thing. Good aroma, color, freckles, and a sticky feel are the telltale signs of a sweet honeydew.

In season, honeydews from California are the best. Unless you live in California, however, a ripe honeydew before August or after October is as rare as a blue moon. Because ripe ones are fragile and hard to ship, 99 percent of those you see most the year have been picked green, and they'll never ripen. From August through October, however, a new crop of honeydews is ripening in California, and they become ready so quickly the growers can't pick them fast enough. Lucky for you, because most of the honeydews end up staying on the vine until they're ripe and full of sugar. Honeydews from Arizona, Texas, and Mexico are in season at the same time, but in my opinion they range from decent (Arizona honeydews) to lackluster (those from Texas and Mexico). There are a couple of consistently good California brands you may want to watch for - Pony Boys and Sycamores. Start looking in August, and you'll rarely be disappointed.

Orange-fleshed honeydews are fairly new on the market. The rind has a more golden color that turns to orange as the melon ripens, so it's a bit easier to tell a mature one by looking at it. I don't think the orange-fleshed variety is quite as sweet as a regular honeydew that's mature and really ripe, but in the winter, when the orange-fleshed variety is shipped in from Chile and other growers south of the equator, it is a better melon and a better buy than any domestic honeydew you're likely to find.

Recipes

Melon Sorbet

Melon with Cinnamon Syrup

Other recipes from Produce Pete.

   

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