Chef Dez on Cooking: Melons and summer go hand-in-mouth

A favourite food to help fight summer heat is chilled slices of melon.

Kids with watermelon juices running down their chins as they submerge their appetites into the cold juicy flesh is a sure sight at almost any outdoor activity.

Although watermelons are the most popular suppressor of scorching temperatures, many also choose cantaloupe, honeydew, or casaba melons to fulfill this activity.

Casaba melons are similar in size and shape to cantaloupes and honeydews, but are recognizable by their wrinkled yellow skin. They are not smooth like honeydews, nor do they have a netted shell like cantaloupes.

The sweet flesh of the casaba can be white, yellow or orange, but it is not as sweet as honeydew, and not as aromatic as cantaloupe.

As a summertime snack, melons have a high water content to replenish overheated bodies, along with a low calorie count.

One diced cup of any of the four varieties mentioned will account for about 45-65 calories.

Honeydew has the most calories, because of higher sugar content, and watermelon, with the highest water content, has the least calories.

Though each of the four melons have their own nutritional attributes, cantaloupes seem to be the most nutritious of the group.

Cantaloupes have an extremely high amount of vitamin A (approximately 5411 IU per cup), while watermelon offers 865 IU, honeydew only 85 IU, and casabas usually don’t have any.

Vitamin A is typically found in abundance in darker-coloured fruits and vegetables, and helps to promote the maintenance and growth of healthy skin and hair.

It is also necessary for proper development of teeth and bones.

Cantaloupes also have the highest vitamin C content (twice that of honeydews), and is highest in potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

No matter what melons you decide upon, a melon baller will assist in creating a great presentation in your next fruit salad, or as frozen balls of fruit in a summer drink.

Garnish your creations with some chilled local fresh berries, and you will have a delicious low-fat snack to help combat the summer heat.

Dear Chef Dez

Someone told me that the outsides of cantaloupes should be washed before we eat them, due to bacteria and salmonella poisoning. If so, why, since we just eat the insides and not the skin?

Norma B., Langley

Dear Norma,

It is true. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), cantaloupes are grown at ground level and their outer skin can become contaminated in the field by soil, contaminated water, wildlife, poor handling, or improperly composted manure.

When we cut into melons, any bacteria on the outer skin can easily be transferred not only to your knife, cutting board, and serving plate, but also to the inner flesh.

The CFIA recommends, as a precaution, that before cutting fresh cantaloupes, to thoroughly wash and scrub them with hot water, using a clean produce brush.

As further safety measures, it would be wise to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling cantaloupes, as well as the equipment used to prepare them.

It is always better to be safe than sorry, and if they recommend this for cantaloupes, then I would assume these safety measures with all melons.

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