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Melon, the most popular summer fruit in Spain

Wiki Spanish Food editorial team

Melon, which is part of the Cucurbitaceae family (along with watermelon, pumpkin and cucumber), originally comes from Asia and Africa. Seeds were found in Egypt, dating back to the time of the Pharaohs, and in India and Thailand, estimated to be more than 10,000 years old. Melons were brought over to Spain by the Arabs and were extremely popular right from the start.

Since they need a lot of heat, they're always grown in countries with very hot, dry summers, like those in the Mediterranean, such as Spain, Italy, France, Turkey and Greece.

"A symbol of earthly delights"

Saint Gregory described melons as "a symbol of earthly delights". Like many other kinds of fruit, it used to be eaten before meals in the 16th century. But one century later, Italian physician Panaroli described it as "a putrid mood of the earth".

Nevertheless, melon is one of the most popular fruits in summer, and in Spain, it is primarily grown in La Mancha. Melons from this region and from the east coast of Spain are considered to be top-quality fruit. There's a Melon Museum and a festival in October in the town of Villaconejos, in Madrid, whose fruit is also considered to be among the best in Spain, despite the high level of competition in growing melons, including those produced in greenhouses. They're available all year round, although now is the best time to enjoy them.

French cantaloupe, a blue-grey melon with reddish flesh, and honeydew, which is light yellow and has a smooth rind, are among the most well known worldwide. The Persian and the Ogen (grown for the first time on an Israeli kibbutz) are also very popular.

Pleasant and refreshing

Melons have a pleasant, refreshing flavor. They contain about 90% water by weight. They are increasingly important from a commercial perspective and they have many advantages, as they are easily stored and transported to the farthest corners of the world. In terms of size, a medium-sized melon (i.e. one that weighs 2-4 kilos) is likely to be the best quality.

However, as with anything, excessive consumption has its risks.

In the kitchen, melon's popularity in cooking is clearly on the rise. It plays a leading role as a dessert, when its smooth flavor and aesthetic features are best brought to the fore.

With respect to beverages, fruit and wine don't generally pair well; however, it's important to look at each dish and consider the other ingredients used. Broadly speaking, sparkling wines would work best with melon.

From the fruit stand on the corner to top restaurants

Melons can be bought in the fruit section in major supermarkets, special fruit stores in Madrid's city center and, of course, in traditional shops, as the fruit seller at the corner grocery store always offers the best advice.

Leading Spanish chefs serve recipes featuring melon. KARLOS ARGUIÑANO, in Zarautz, serves puff pastry cannoli filled with melon cream. Jordi Roca, from EL CELLER DE CAN ROCA, is in charge of desserts and has a delicious grilled melon with aromatic herb recipe. PANDELUJO, in Madrid, serves a dish with at least 20 different types of fruit. In Daroca de Rioja, near Logroño, VENTA MONCALVILLO offers customers an innovative dessert: melon infused in citrus fruits and licorice accompanied by fennel ice cream. And in the lovely town of Casares, in Málaga, DON GIOVANNI-FINCA CORTESIN offers seasonal fruit carpaccio, which includes melon.

ADDRESSES

KARLOS ARGUIÑANO. Mendilauta, 13, Tel.: 943 130 000, Zarautz. Guipúzcoa.

CELLER DE CAN ROCA. Can Sunyer, 48. Tel.: 972 222 157, Girona

PANDELUJO. Jorge Juan, 20, Tel.: 914 361 100 Madrid

VENTA MONCALVILLO. Ctra. Medrano, 6, Tel.: 941 444 832, Daroca de Rioja. La Rioja.

DON GIOVANNI. Ctra, Ap 7 Málaga-Cádiz, exit 153. Casares. Málaga

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11/12/2014