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The Charentais melon


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I've read that the Charentais melon is the most delicious cultivar of cantaloupe.

 

In the writer's opinion. There is no absolute.

 

About one minute ago,  I had no idea about its availability in North America , but Mr Google told me in about 20 seconds. Here for example.

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About one minute ago,  I had no idea about its availability in North America , but Mr Google told me in about 20 seconds. Here for example.

 

Yes, I had seen the Happy Boy Farms website.  Unfortunately, their produce is only available at their farm store and at their local farmers markets, which is not helpful to me, since they are 3,000 miles away from me.

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Happy Boy sells at many farmers markets in the Bay Area. I have had most of their melons, including the Charentais. It's not my favorite melon--it's very sweet. I'll take a straight ahead perfect cantaloupe over many of the super-sugary juicy melons now in abundance. My favorite melon (not in the watermelon category) these days is the orange honeydew, which has become pretty common in the last few years. But I'm sure all melons have their devotees, and it is also very possible that I tasted a mediocre or over-ripe Charentais and formed my opinion that way. No matter how many "techniques" people give me for picking a good melon I find it's mostly luck.

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Here's an idea - why don't you tell us where you're located?

 

Good idea - I'm midway between Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey.

 

I'll take a straight ahead perfect cantaloupe over many of the super-sugary juicy melons now in abundance.

 

My favorite melon (not in the watermelon category) these days is the orange honeydew...

 

Can you tell me which cultivar is the one that's so common in American supermarkets?  That would be good to know as a kind of "baseline" comparison.

 

The honeydew melons that I'm familiar with have green flesh.  Are the kind you're talking about marketed as "orange honeydews"?  I'll look for them.

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I don't want them that badly...

The Trenton NJ transit line passes through your neck of the woods. How do I know? My partner and I visited his sister yesterday; she lives 10 minutes away from the Trenton stop, in Pennsylvania. You don't have to drive into NYC just to visit the city.

USGM is about 20 minutes away from Penn Station.

Just a thought.

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Yes, they typically are labeled Orange Honeydew. Right now is the best time to find out what kinds of melons you like best, and the biggest selection will probably be at a farmers' market. I'm also very partial to the Yellow Baby watermelon. It is indeed yellow or golden fleshed, and there may be other varieties of yellow as well. They taste slightly different from a red watermelon--more vegetal perhaps. My opinion is that seedless melons don't have as good flavor as ones that are grown w/seeds, so I don't buy seedless watermelons, even though they are becoming more popular. And after all, spitting seeds is part of the watermelon experience. 

 

Surely there are some farmers' markets in your locale. When I lived on the east coast my mother was always waxing poetic about New Jersey tomatoes, so maybe there are some legendary Jersey Melons.

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Definitely go to a local farmers market. Ask the grower what's best, take his or her advice , enjoy.

Today I picked up two musk melons (the common canteloupes grown in these parts) from a South Jersey farmer, A T. Buzby. Way better than the French seed ' lope I picked up from a "Star" boutique farmer at same market (tho prices were't that far apart.

One of the two melons I'm eating fresh. The other has already been puréed and mixed with simple syrup and a few secret ingredients to become sorbet for tomorrow's block party. It also makes great ice cream.

Edited by rlibkind (log)

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

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Along the general theme of what several have posted, it is all about taste. A perfectly ripened more "ordinary" melon can make your knees buckle versus a specialty melon picked too soon or transported poorly. Also as noted, personal preference makes a difference. I don't enjoy that almost overly ripe tropical taste in a melon though that is the wow factor for others. The best cantaloupes I ever had were picked from my garden from bog standard seed starts by my lab and left by the back door. She knew when they were at their peak ;)

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Surely there are some farmers' markets in your locale.

 

 

Definitely go to a local farmers market.

 

We have an excellent local Farmers' Market (the Trenton Farmers' Market, which is actually in Ewing).  I'll try there.

 

 

... from bog standard seed starts by my lab and left by the back door. She knew when they were at their peak

 

I sincerely assure you that I am not in the least being ironic, sarcastic or facetious, but I don't understand a single word of this segment of your last sentence.

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Heidi, reward that four legged genius with an artisanal biscuit from the farmers' market. I need a melon-sniffing dog!

Mmmmm, they always say the the seed needs a good amount of compost when planted. By the way, I had to look up a picture of your Charentais melon on the net to see what it is. It is our most common melon here in Southern Africa and called a "Spanspek". Use your name or even "cantaloupe" and folk will wonder what you have been smoking!

Edited by JohnT (log)

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You can get seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and grow your own, if you are interested.

 

Thanks for the tip, but I would like to taste the melon before I went to the time and effort of growing it myself.

 

I'll keep Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in mind for future use, but I'll apparently have to actually call them to learn about their products, because it seems that they haven't updated their website since 2009!

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Calling something the best requires exposure to the other, allegedly lesser, examples of the item or dish. If you are trying to educate your palate and expand your food universe then engaging in simple tasting exercises might be a useful to establish a foundation of tastes. Before you run all over the net seeking a Chartenais melon, try a side by side tasting of a grocery store ripe cantaloupe and something a bit more "exotic" like the Tuscan cantaloupe marketed by Dulcinea http://www.dulcinea.com/products/Tuscan-Style-Cantaloupe.html  My local big chains like Albertsons, and Safeway owned stores have been selling them for at least 5 years so they are not a boutique item. As you taste, force yourself to describe and write down what you like more or less about each and why, along with describing the taste profile. That will give you a point of reference if and when you get a chance to experience a different melon. 

 

Kim Severson discusses this in her memoir Spoon Fed "You have to build a catalogue of food memories. To understand good chocolate, you have to know bad chocolate and you should experience then side by side."  She goes on to discuss , for example, how a Hershey bar next to a perfect Michel Cluizel chocolate tastes like sour, grainy earwax - BUT that she loves a cake her mom makes with broken Hershey bars and that for her fine chocolate does not work in that application. Sort of the same concept we discuss whenever someone posts a "top 10" sort of list. Taste is not a black & white simple formula as applied to different individuals. The chemistry can be formulized, but the experience incorporates memories that vary from person to person. 

 

The same principle applies to your question about balsamic in this topic you started http://forums.egullet.org/topic/149341-top-notch-balsamic-

vinegar/

 

Edited to add link to balsamic topic

Edited by heidih (log)
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  • 2 months later...

Charentais are mighty good-among my favorites, along with juan canary, santa claus and miniature musks. I wouldn't know where to buy them here in CT., but I have no trouble growing them. Just throw the seeds in and feed regularly. Your garden should be fairly animal-proof, some of mine usually go to rabbits and woodchucks, but the ones left are tasty. Seeds at: seedsavers.com

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Happy Boy sells at many farmers markets in the Bay Area. I have had most of their melons, including the Charentais. It's not my favorite melon--it's very sweet. I'll take a straight ahead perfect cantaloupe over many of the super-sugary juicy melons now in abundance. My favorite melon (not in the watermelon category) these days is the orange honeydew, which has become pretty common in the last few years. But I'm sure all melons have their devotees, and it is also very possible that I tasted a mediocre or over-ripe Charentais and formed my opinion that way. No matter how many "techniques" people give me for picking a good melon I find it's mostly luck.

The Charentais is also thin-skinned and does not keep as well as most cantaloupe-variety melons.  I grew them in Italy during the terribly hot summer of 2009, and was not pleased with the result, but that could have been the year.  The melons from Mantova in Italy are better (it is the classic sweet and juicy melon paired with prosciutto here, not as sweet as the Charentais and not quite as soft), but likely even less available in the U.S.  That said, for my taste (and I like a sweet melon), the Mantova melon and the Charentais are the two best cantaloupes that I have ever eaten.  Ripeness always seems hit-and-miss in the U.S., better in farmer's markets, but for whatever reason, cantaloupe-style melons are almost always excellent here.  (Watermelons are another story!)

Bill Klapp

bklapp@egullet.com

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One of the problems is that the Charentais is a true cantaloupe, as mostly grown in Europe.  In North America, the "cantaloupe" is actually not a cantaloupe but a muskmelon (the netted skin pattern is the give away).   A few specialty places in N.A. will grow European cantaloupes, including the Charentais, but most don't.  But it's confusing when Europeans and North Americans talk about cantaloupes because they don't usually realize two different kinds of melons are being discussed. 

 

There are some mighty fine muskmelons that have been developed in North America, although they are mostly hard to find, too, except in farmer's markets.  For the same reason the Charentais  is tricky -- thin skin and they go bad within a few days of picking.  Before the onset of big ag in the mid-20th century, there were numerous local muskmelons that were popular, including the Montreal melon, the Irondequoit, etc., but they mostly disappeared 50 years ago and the market was taken over by the standard "cantaloupe" and honeydew melons that you see in the supermarket.  There is definitely a push to revive some of those good but fragile old time melons.  Ask your farmer's market to see if anyone is growing these more interesting melons.  And make a request at your local Whole Foods or whatever the expensive organic market is in your neck of the woods.  Higher demand will sometimes get things moving!

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No matter how many "techniques" people give me for picking a good melon I find it's mostly luck.

 

Hey Katie,

 

I've found this to be true too. My husband often compliments me when I bring home a particularly fragrant cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon. I try to find large ones that maybe have lighter areas on the side where they rested on the earth, and if you can smell them through the rind, (only applies to cantaloupes) so much the better. The watermelon is supposed to sound hollow when thumped.

 

I get "lucky" way more than half the time, so I figure I'm onto something. But I can use all my knowledge and decades of experience and still come home with under ripe duds. We usually eat them anyway, but they're no where nearly as enjoyable as one that has come into its own in its field.

 

If anyone knows any foolproof secrets about how to select ripe melons, I'm all ears.

 

New Foodie:

 

I have purchased Charentais melon at my local Trader Joe's in Cary, NC. The season is very short, so much so that either I miss it some years, or they don't carry them every year. The ones I have gotten there have not been as fragrant and desirable as a fully ripe regular cantaloupe/musk melon. I find them too sweet without the deep aroma I crave.

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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