Good Food/Good Health
weekly cooking column for the week of September 8, 2003

from the
American Institute for Cancer Research

The eye is often bigger than the stomach when buying ripe end-of-season melons. After a few end-of-meal desserts, there’s often a big piece of melon left over. A melon salad is a tasty, colorful solution.

Watermelon in salads has become trendy on restaurant menus, often paired with cheese and tomatoes. Adding honeydew and cantaloupe just means more of a good thing.

There are two classes of melons: muskmelons, which include honeydew and cantaloupe, and watermelons, which are in a class by themselves.

Both honeydew and cantaloupe have netted skins and seeds in a fibrous center cluster. While they are available throughout the year, these melons are most abundant in late summer and early fall.

When they are ripe, muskmelons are slightly soft at the blossom end and have a sweet smell. Choose those that are heavy for their size. Cantaloupe is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and honeydews a good source of vitamin C.

In addition to containing fair amounts of vitamins A and C, watermelon has been promoted as a good weapon in the fight against disease. New research shows that watermelon may be a good source of lycopene, the phytochemical (natural plant substance) that could help prevent certain cancers and other health problems. Lycopene is the substance that gives red and pink grapefruit, watermelon, tomatoes and guava their color.

Even before this finding, watermelon was considered good for snacks, desserts and salads. Each cup (about half a large slice) contains 16 to 19 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. And a one-cup serving can satisfy a sweet tooth with just 49calories, making it one of the fruits least concentrated in sugar and calories.

When picking a watermelon, look for those without any flat sides. If you slap the side of the melon and hear a hollow thump, it’s probably ripe. A watermelon’s rind should be dull, not shiny. If you’ve got the space, it’s best to store watermelon in the refrigerator.

Fruit is a nice addition to any salad. Oranges add color and a sweet taste to a green salad. Crisp apple slices can take the place of water chestnuts in an Asian chicken salad. Tart dried berries are good in both green salads and meat salads. A salad of melons, mint and feta is refreshing to both the eye and the palate.

Melon Salad

1 lb. watermelon
1/2 lb. honeydew melon
1/2 lb. cantaloupe
4 Tbsp. diced feta cheese
2 Tbsp. finely chopped mint leaves
Juice of 1-2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste, if desired
Whole sprigs of mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Seed the melons and cut into bite-sized pieces. Arrange them on a platter or 6 salad plates. Sprinkle with the feta and chopped mint. Season with lime juice and, if desired, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. If using, garnish with sprigs of mint.

Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 69 calories, 2 g. total fat (1 g. saturated fat), 13 g. carbohydrate,
2 g. protein, 1 g. dietary fiber, 82 mg. sodium.

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