Mad about melon
Do you go mad for melon in the summer months? And so you should! More than just refreshing, melons are brimming with health benefits.
As well as being full of flavour and thirst quenching, melons are an excellent source of vitamins, in particular provitamin A (beta-carotene), oligo-elements and fibre. Nutritionist Véronique Liégeois explains.
Melon: rich in water and antioxidants
The melon is a particularly refreshing fruit due to its very high water content (90%). The calories it provides are not very high: on average 35 to 40 kcal per 100g depending on the sugar content, which can vary from 6-14%, but is most often between 10-12%.
The melon’s principle health benefit is: “The melon is particularly rich in the provitamin A (beta-carotene) with its antioxidant properties,” explains nutritionist, Véronique Liégeois. Along with mango or apricots, melon is actually one of the fruits that contains the most with 100g of melon providing most of the RDA of provitamin A.
“Beta-carotene transforms into vitamin A in the body,” explains the nutritionist. This is an essential vitamin for the growth and development of cells, vision and the immune system. For our specialist, this makes it an excellent nutrient for children and adolescents. To get the most out of this rich beta-carotene content, choose melons with an orange-coloured flesh, for example the Charentais variety, which is very rich in carotene.
Melon: full of vitamins and oligo-elements
“Melons are also a great source of vitamin C with 25mg per 100g,” Véronique Liégeois points out. Vitamin C is necessary in the production of collagen and healing, and it is also a solid antioxidant. Melons also contain B vitamins but in moderate quantities.
As for oligo-elements, melons are rich in potassium, with a high level of 300mg per 100g portion. This stimulates diuresis, the elimination of urine. Secondary to this, melon also provides supplies of magnesium and calcium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and iodine. All varieties of melon contain these essential vitamins and minerals.
Melons with orange flesh are also good sources of bioflavonoids and other vegetable pigments, which could help prevent certain types of cancer and heart disease. Finally, it is important to note that melon has useful fibre, which helps the intestines to function well.
Choosing and storing your melons
There is a variety of melons available:
- Cantaloupe (Rock) melons (or the French Charentais and Cavaillon varieties) are the most commonly grown variety in the UK, with a ribbed greenish skin, orange flesh and a deep flavour and perfume;
- Gallia melons are similar to the Cantaloupe but are a little larger, have a lightly netted yellow hued skin with a yellow-green coloured flesh;
- Honeydew (Musk) melons are as big as a rugby ball, have a bright smooth yellow skin and a firm pale green to yellow flesh and while juicy, they are little less sweeter than other varieties;
- Sugar melons are normally grown in Holland in greenhouses and so are available all year round. The skin is a cream to pale yellow colour with network of whiteveins.
Choose a melon with a peduncle (fruit stem) that’s beginning to come away: this signals that the fruit has reached perfect maturity. The melon must also be heavy and have moderate resistance to finger pressure, particularly around the stem (too soft means that it is overripe, and totally hard means that it is not yet ripe). You can also smell the perfume of some of the melons such as the Cantaloupe and Gallia when they are ripe and ready to eat.
As for storing melons, keep your melon at room temperature if it is not already ripe, or in the refrigerator in the vegetable draw, and wrapped in cling film or alfoil if it’s ripe of has been cut.
And if you want to eat melon all year, you can store it up! Melon freezes very well – you just need to cut the fruit into cubes and pop them into freezer bags and into the freezer. They’ll keep for up to a year.
Making the most of your melon
You can eat melon at the beginning of the meal or as dessert: it doesn’t really matter very much if you only eat a little. “It can, however, pose certain problems for digestion at the end of the meal for people who are sensitive,” warns Véronique Liégeois.
The nutritionist recommends eating no more than 100 to 150g of melon flesh (or a 200g portion with the skin) so as to avoid consuming too many calories or getting indigestion. Don’t hesitate to mix melon with other fruit in fruit salads or with other food in mixed salads.
For a great summer salad: melon slices and flakes of haddock drizzled with a light, yoghurt-based sauce or a dash of lemon juice. And don’t forget the classic favourite of melon with Parma harm (See Melon and nectarines with parma ham).
Melon also makes amazing smoothies (See Melon and green lime smoothie), but bear in mind that melon flesh reacts with the air very quickly so only mix a smoothie if you are ready to drink it straight away. “Mix the melon with lime, and thick-textured fruit like bananas, apricots or mango,” advises Véronique Liégeois. “Melon is a really good fruit for eating in the summer as it rehydrates you and is a good source of carbohydrates,’” she adds.
- Aprifel, fruit and vegetables
- Cavaillon Melon growers union
- The Haut-Poitou Melon (in French)
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