August 2007

Make the Most of Mouthwatering Melons

Melon can quench your thirst and satisfy your sweet tooth while giving you cancer-fighting benefits. Here’s the lowdown on some succulent low-calorie melons, plus some imaginative recipes.

You can find melons most months of the year, but somehow they never taste as delicious and refreshing as they do during the dog days of August.

Melons and JuiceWatermelon. If you’re going to eat watermelon this year, the time is now. You can choose from two delicious varieties or combine them. Red watermelon contains lycopene, the phytochemical that researchers have found may help fight prostate cancer. Yellow watermelon has far less lycopene, according to one USDA study.

The USDA also recently found that uncut watermelon’s nutrients are better preserved when it is stored at room temperature. It sounds unlikely, but the study said that compared to refrigerated watermelon, unrefrigerated watermelon had twice as much beta-carotene and 20 percent more lycopene.

Unrefrigerated watermelon continues to ripen when it sits on the counter, as bananas and peaches do, too. If you crave cool, refreshing watermelon on a hot summer day, put the melon you’ve left unrefrigerated in the fridge for an hour before you slice it. One cup of diced watermelon has 46 calories and is a good source of vitamin A and lycopene.

Cantaloupe. The orange color of cantaloupe means it contains a high amount of health-protecting beta-carotene. Cantaloupe is among the smaller and easier-to-cut melons. Its skin “netting” gives some traction to a knife. Netting also indicates that it is ripe, and you shouldn’t see any green on the outside.

CantaloupeIf you’re still in doubt, gently push the spot where the stem was attached – if it is slightly soft and gives off a flowery, sweet scent, the melon is ripe. Cantaloupe pairs well with other summer fruits, like berries and stone fruits (peaches, plums, etc.), but it can also be used in a spicy tomato chutney. (See recipe, below.) One cup of diced cantaloupe has 53 calories, a good amount of potassium, and is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A.

Honeydew. Light green and wonderfully sweet, honeydew melon is a good base for contrasting tastes, whether simply sprinkled with lime juice, or prepared in a salad with peppery watercress. Go by scent when you shop: a ripe honeydew smells a little like roses and has much more taste than a scentless one. A cup of diced honeydew has 61 calories, and is a good source of potassium and vitamin C.


Of course there are many other kinds of melons, including crenshaws, casaba, Santa Claus, horned and Persian. Before the summer ends, make the most of melons by eating them as a light, sweet breakfast, snack or dessert. Or try them in one of these healthy AICR recipes.

Honeydew Salad with Crab, Chives and Watercress
3 cups diced honeydew melon
1 lb. crabmeat (or imitation crabmeat), or cooked flakey white fish, like flounder
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1 tsp. dried ground chervil
1-1 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
4 cups coarsely chopped fresh watercress sprigs removed from thicker stems
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, for garnish

In large bowl, combine honeydew, crabmeat and chives. Toss to combine. Set aside.

In small bowl, whisk together chervil, sesame oil, vinegar, salt and black pepper. Drizzle dressing over honeydew mixture and toss to combine. Arrange watercress on individual plates and top with salad. Garnish with pepper strips.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 196 calories, 6 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 12 g carbohydrates, 24 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 499 mg sodium.

Cantaloupe Chutney
4 cups diced cantaloupe (about 1 melon)
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. ground cumin

In medium saucepan, combine all ingredients. Set pan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer 25-30 minutes, until cantaloupe breaks down. Cool to room temperature and drain (reserve liquid to use as marinade for another dish). Serve with whole grains, steamed vegetables, chicken or fish.

Makes 10 servings. Per 1/4 cup serving: 60 calories, 0 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 15 carbohydrates, <1 g protein, 0 g dietary fiber, 12 mg sodium.

Melon Salad
3 cups diced watermelon
1 1/2 cups honeydew melon
1 ½ cups 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 them into bite-sized pieces. Arrange them on a platter or 6 salad plates. Sprinkle with the feta and mint. Season with lime juice and, if desired, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with sprigs of mint, if desired.

Makes 8 servings, 1 cup per serving. Per serving: 49 calories, 1 g. total fat (<1 g. saturated fat), 11 g. carbohydrate, 1 g. protein, <1 g. dietary fiber, 64 mg. sodium.

Watermelon Berry Cooler
2 1/4 cups water, almost boiling
2 green tea bags
1 Tbsp. packed spearmint leaves
2 Tbsp. good quality honey, such as wildflower or orange blossom
1 cup bite-size watermelon chunks
1 cup thawed frozen unsweetened raspberries
Lime slices for garnish (optional)
Mint sprigs for garnish (optional)

Steep tea and mint leaves 3-5 minutes in hot water. Add honey and set aside. In blender, purée melon and raspberries. Add tea to fruit mixture and purée for 1 minute. Strain tea and fruit mixture to remove seeds and bits of mint leaves. Refrigerate until cold. In 4 tall glasses with ice, pour beverage and garnish with lime and mint, if desired.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 60 calories, 0 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 15 g carbohydrates, <1 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 1 mg sodium.

Cantaloupe-Mango Soup
3 cups cubed cantaloupe (about 1 small)
1 1/4 cups chopped mango (1 small)
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1/3 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
2 1/2 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

In blender, place all ingredients and mix well. Pour into large serving bowl or tureen and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 150 calories, <1 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 36 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 34 mg sodium.

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