Each year, strawberries appear surprisingly early in this part of France, and they are delicious. But the strawberries’ arrival tends to get the taste buds tingling and the mind racing forward to summer.
In turn, that leads to a symptom known medically as premature melonitis — the desire to buy a field-grown melon at the first hint of summer, even though you’re pretty sure the melon actually won’t be any good.
My wife Jan and I were struck by a case of premature melonitis a few weeks ago, when we saw melons arranged attractively just outside a store in the neighbouring village of Cénac. The store advertises itself as offering lots of local, organic and farm-grown produce, so we figured that the melon would be delicious.
It was — provided that you enjoy munching on a turnip with a slight hint of melon flavour. In other words, we had bought too early.
But the Greater Daglan Area has now erupted into full-blown summer, and melon mania is gripping the GDA, with melon stands popping up on many of the major roads. And it’s no wonder, because ripe melons here are simply delicious.
The star of the show is the Charentais melon, a French variety of cantaloupe. As one gardening website put it: “The bright orange flesh is super sweet and very fragrant.” Fragrant is right — the scent is so sweet and musky and strong that we are sometimes taken aback once we open one up; often I make a special trip to the déchetterie (garbage depot) just to get the rinds out of our kitchen waste bin.
Here’s one we bought recently, sitting in a fruit-and-vegetable bowl in our kitchen:
For a look at that “bright orange flesh,” here it is, after Jan cut it in two halves:
What to do with the melons? Obviously you can scoop out little balls to make a fruit salad, or you can cut wedges for breakfast. One melon dish we particularly enjoy is melon and some sort of ham as a light dinner (since we tend to eat our large meal of the day at lunch); here’s a serving of the melon with Bayonne ham, for a recent dinner:
If you’re coming to the GDA any time soon, be sure to buy at least one. You can find them at virtually any weekly market these days, or in supermarkets, or at roadside stands. They really are a special treat of southern France.