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Articles - Gourmet Pleasures:

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Here's how to recognise the perfect melon

Ripe melons taste far better than the not-so-ripe fruit and a half-ripe melon that you buy won't ripen or get any sweeter after you've taken it home. But how do you tell whether a melon is really ripe? One tip is to use all your senses when you're shopping.

If you're in the store buying watermelons, first knock gently on the melon with your knuckles. A ripe watermelon, for example, has a high water content and conducts sound very well. It will vibrate easily and sounds deep and hollow when you rap on the skin. If the sound is light and metallic, the watermelon probably hasn't plumped up yet with a lot of water, in other words it isn't yet completely ripe. It's no good looking at the colour of the skin, watermelons are dark green whether they're ripe or only half-ripe.

Use your nose, eyes and hands to assess the quality of sugar melons

The test for a ripe sugar melon is whether it smells sweet and ripe when you sniff at the stalk end. If this part of the melon gives slightly when you press it with your finger, then the melon is perfect. You could also check that the skin is not too soft and hasn't any bruises or cracks. If it's overripe the melon will smell over-perfumed and slightly fermented. Of course, if you buy a slice of melon, you'll be able to inspect the flesh. It should look juicy with a uniform colour.

There are any number of ways of eating melons. Cut them into slices and spoon the flesh out. Or cut them into cubes or fingers. Or make melon balls with a special melon scoop. You can thread the melon balls onto a kebab stick or float them in a jug of fruit punch. Watermelon pips are edible. Sugar melon pips are easily scooped out with a spoon and discarded. Honeydew melon slices with smoked ham or salmon are a classic way of serving melon.

Storing melons

A carefully chosen melon should keep – whole – for one to two weeks in a cool, dark place. Once you've opened it, or if you buy it already halved or sliced, then you should eat it the same day. Harald Seitz, nutritionist at aid infodienst, comments "The cut sides dry out rapidly, so it's a good idea to cover them with clingfilm." In the fridge, melons quickly loose their fresh flavour and take on the smells of other things in the fridge.

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de