A tour of the Market’s summer offering
Melons are among the fruits whose appearance at the Market—despite the fact they’re in no way a natural feature of the British landscape—undoubtedly shout, “summer’s here”. Whatever the weather might be doing. Currently all but tumbling off the greengrocers’ colourful stalls, they’re a motley bunch, in hues of green and yellow and orange, striped and bumped, each with its own personality.
“It’s a great time of year for melons,” says Paul at Paul Wheeler Fresh Supplies, “most of ours are from Spain at this time of year, and they’re absolutely lovely.” Fragrant, mottled green galias with super-sweet, pearlescent flesh; firm, golden, smooth-skinned honey dews, and stripy French charentais—the most prized of the summer melons, and the one with the shortest season. “Charentais has more of an intense flavour,” says Charlie at Turnips, “it’s not quite as sweet as the galia or honeydew—it’s almost creamy in flavour, with a thicker texture. It’s the best of the bunch—definitely my favourite.”
Walk past Turnips, mind, and it’s impossible not to notice one variety in particular: “The torpedo watermelon,” he smiles—huge and oblong-shaped, they certainly look as though they’re capable of doing damage to a ship. “We think they’re the nicest type of watermelon you can get.”
“I’ve been delighted to see more piel de sapo melons this year, which is a type of honeydew—its name literally means ‘toad skin’ and they have a wonderful flavour,” adds chef and demo kitchen regular Ursula Ferrigno. “Buy the fruit when it feels heavy—as the sugars in the melon ripen, the fruit will become heavier,” she advises. “A good fragrance is also a sign of ripeness.”
What melons and watermelons lack in the pick-up, walk and eat appeal of strawberries and cherries, they make up for in versatility. “Wrap a chunk of melon in a bit of Parma ham and you can’t really go wrong,” says Paul. A perennial Italian starter, “it’s as old as the hills, but it’s endured for a reason.” Jenny Chandler echoes this classic agro-dulce combination in her watermelon, feta, and herby bulgur wheat salad. “I like torpedo watermelon filled with vodka, personally!” laughs Charlie; Celia Brooks prefers the more sophisticated watermelon margerita—the perfect summer party drink.
“Melons work well with other fruits, such as raspberries, strawberries or, redcurrants or a combination of all four,” Ursula continues. “We Italians also enjoy cantaloupe sorbet and watermelon gelato—simply divine and it has a fantastic pink colour. For all sorbets with fruit, try a little fresh mint chopped in to the mixture. It’s so simple, but staggeringly delicious!”