By Stephanie Prideaux, Dietetic Technician, Registered
Children are mostly back in school, the fair has packed up its things, and summer, I’m afraid, is coming to a close. Although we might not have all the free time or outdoor movies in the park, we can hold on to summer through many of our favorite foods that are still in season. Melons, the snack I brought to almost every single gathering this year, are in season through as late as November, depending on the variety. Seasonal fruit means budget-friendly prices. Use this opportunity to sample melons you may have never heard of, such as canary melon or Santa Claus melon (also known as piel de sapo).
Melons are one of the ultimate warm weather snacks for their juiciness and refreshing mildly sweet flavor. In fact, melons like watermelon and honeydew are made of about 90 percent water. Their natural sweetness is a great substitute for sugary desserts or sugary beverages. Melons can even be transformed into delicious drinks with little to no added sugar, such as in the style of aguas frescas. Healthy frozen desserts such as snow cones or popsicles can be made from melons, such as in the recipe below. When in a pinch for time, skewered melon chunks are an easy option that kids love—and it’s a great way to taste test new types of melon.
You don’t have to be a culinary artist to transform melons into amazing things. With a little experimentation, or a recipe like the one below, melons can be used in ways that may not commonly come to mind. Never underestimate the deliciousness of any fruit with some lemon juice and chili powder. Melons can even be made into salsas and soups, or grilled or pickled.. Their mild but distinct flavor allows them to be served with fish, chicken, in tacos, as a dip, or in countless other ways.
Adding melon to main dishes is a unique and colorful way to pack in extra nutritional value, too. Melons are notorious for being great sources of vitamin C, which is perfect for children. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects their growing bodies against damage from the sun, air pollution, cigarette smoke and more. . This vitamin is also used to make collagen, which can help heal wounds from playtime cuts and scrapes. Iron deficiency is a common condition affecting children, but vitamin C can combat this by increasing the amount of iron their bodies absorb when eaten at the same time as meat, fish, poultry, beans, lentils, spinach, peas, nuts or raisins.
Melons are also good sources of dietary fiber, which prevents constipation and promotes heart health. Cantaloupe and watermelon, with their bright red and orange colors, are also good sources of vitamin A. This vitamin plays key roles in normal vision, immunity, future reproduction, as well as normal organ function. Potassium, essential for brain and nerve function, muscle growth and function, in addition to water balance, can also be easily found in cantaloupes. The list goes on and on. All melons are well-rounded and scrumptious sources of nutrients essential for growth, energy, normal function.
MELONS & FOOD SAFETY
Melons are nutrition powerhouses, but improperly handled food can spoil the fun. Remember, melons grow in the ground sitting on dirt. This is why melons should always be washed and scrubbed prior to slicing into it. If not, we risk moving any illness-causing bacteria from the outside of the melon to the inside. Be sure to wash your hands and never use an unwashed knife or cutting board–especially if it was used for meat. Once cut, keep melon cold or else discard after two hours of being at room.
Honeydew Avocado Salsa
zest of one lime
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
2 ½ cups honeydew melon, diced
salt and pepper, to taste
Simply toss ingredients together and enjoy!
Variations: toss diced melon and/or any other fruit with lime juice, green onions, chiles and herbs for versatility.
Minted Watermelon Popsicles
4 cups seedless watermelon, diced
2 tbsp sugar
¼ cup mint leaves, minced
2 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
pinch of salt
Puree watermelon with sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients and pour into ice cube trays or popsicle molds. Freeze until hard, about three hours, inserting popsicle sticks halfway through freezing.
Variations: cantaloupe with lemon juice; honeydew with lemon juice and cinnamon; watermelon with lime juice and cayenne
Recipe Sources: Food & Wine