Melon is the symbol of summer and refreshing food in France. While watermelon isn’t very common, you can be sure to find melon on every table and every restaurant menu during summer in France. Whether it’s eaten as a starter or as nibbly bits for the apéritif, melon is a true star. But how to choose it and how to serve it? Here is our lowdown.
How to choose your melon
Melon is quite tricky to choose, but it’s important to buy a ripe one to get the most of its sweet, refreshing taste. There is no infallible technique, and each French family has its own way of doing things, but here are some top tips: a ripe melon is dense, so take it in your hands and weigh it – it has to seem heavy for its volume. Also rely on its smell (the sweeter, the better), and check if the stem is cracking. If those three conditions are met, you can be almost sure it will be delicious. You will see French people in supermarkets and markets taking the melons in their hands, weigh them, smell them and compare them – so don’t be shy!
The best way is to buy melons from your local producer if possible. A nationally famous variety of melon is the “melon charentais” (from the Charente region), so this one is a safe choice – make sure it does come from Charente and not Morocco though!
How to serve melon
Like for any other ingredient, there are many ways of serving melon, but here are the three classic ways of doing it:
Slices or balls
Eating melon in slices with a pinch of salt (or not) is simple but probably the best to enjoy its unique flavour. Just close your eyes and feel the sweet and refreshing juice invade your mouth. Many French people also carve little balls out of the melon with a small ice cream spoon for a nice, slightly different presentation.
With dry ham
It can be surprising, but melon and dry ham is a very common (and delicious) combination. You will find it as starter in many restaurants during summer.
With Pineau des Charentes
Since melon charentais is the most famous variety, it makes complete sense to eat it with another Charentes specialty: Pineau (fortified wine made with fermented grape and Cognac eau-de-vie). You can cut the melon in half, remove the pips, and fill the middle with Pineau, or cut little balls and let them marinate in the alcohol. You can also add some dry ham!
Melon is a true star during summer (you can even find melon flavoured ice creams), so no wonder why the expression “prendre le melon” means to become full of oneself (literally “take the melon”)!