Sugar Queen Melon
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Sugar Queen melons vary in size from small to large, depending on growing conditions, and have a round to oblong shape, averaging 2 to 3 kilograms, sometimes weighing up to 5 kilograms. The melon’s rind is thin, semi-firm, and easily sliced. The rind also ripens from green to golden-orange and is covered in a raised and textured tan netting. Underneath the golden surface, there is a thin portion of the rind that is white, pale yellow, to ivory, a unique feature of this variety, as most melons bear a green ring. The flesh is dense, aqueous, orange, and tender with a smooth, almost melting quality. There is also a central cavity filled with oval, cream-colored seeds suspended in a gelatinous liquid amongst stringy fibers. Sugar Queen melons develop an aromatic, honeyed, and musky odor when ripe. The melons also contain a high sugar content, contributing to the fruit’s concentrated, intensely sweet, fruity, and floral flavor with tropical nuances.
Sugar Queen melons are available in the summer.
Sugar Queen melons, botanically classified as Cucumis melo var. reticulatus, are a very sweet muskmelon variety belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family. The netted melons are an heirloom cultivar, believed to be a type of Persian melon, highly favored for their concentrated flavor. Sugar Queen melons are a boutique variety of melon, challenging to find in commercial markets. The melons are primarily sold through farmer’s markets and specialty distributors and are a seasonal delicacy sought after by melon enthusiasts. Sugar Queen melons are also a popular home garden cultivar, valued by growers for the melon’s juicy, sweet, and aromatic flesh. Chefs utilize Sugar Queen melons as a fresh ingredient and traditionally serve the melon raw to appreciate its floral, fruity, and subtly tropical flavor.
Sugar Queen melons are a source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract, vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, and beta-carotene, the orange pigment found in the melon’s flesh that provides antioxidant-like properties to protect the cells from free radical damage. The melons also contain vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning, potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, and lower amounts of thiamine, magnesium, folate, vitamin B6, and niacin.
Sugar Queen melons have a sweet, refreshing flavor well suited for fresh preparations. The melons should be washed before opening to remove bacteria and impurities trapped in the netted rind. Once cleaned, the melons can be sliced and consumed straight out of hand, tossed into fruit salads, green salads, and grain bowls, or cut into wedges and served with salty cured meats. Sugar Queen melons can also be combined with herbs as a bright side dish to grilled meats, pureed into chilled soups, chopped into salsa or coleslaw, or mixed with other melon varieties, vanilla, and curry leaves as a unique appetizer. In addition to culinary dishes, Sugar Queen melons are frequently blended into smoothies, shakes, and mint-infused juices. The melons can be utilized as a specialty flavoring in any recipe calling for common muskmelon or cantaloupe. Sugar Queen melons can also be lightly grilled or seared to develop a rich, caramelized flavor. Sugar Queen melons pair well with herbs such as mint, basil, and cilantro, ginger, fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, citrus, and kiwi, vanilla, roasted meats including poultry, steak, and pork, seafood such as crab, fish, and scallops, and cheeses such as burrata, feta, and ricotta. Whole, unwashed Sugar Queen melons can be left at room temperature to ripen for up to three days. Once mature, the melons should be consumed immediately for the best quality and flavor. Sugar Queen slices can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for three days.
In the Mediterranean, muskmelons are popularly pureed or mashed into chilled soups. The cooling dish is derived from gazpacho, a soup that originated in the Andalusian area of Spain sometime between the 8th and 13th centuries. Gazpacho was traditionally made from garlic, olive oil, and vinegar, blended by hand with a mortar and pestle, and combined with stale bread and seasonally available vegetables. The chilled dish was favored among field workers in the Mediterranean as a cooling meal to quench thirst from the hot summer sun. Over time, the dish evolved with varying influences from Moor, Arab, Roman, and Greek culinary practices, and in the 16th century, tomatoes were introduced from the New World, forever changing the soup’s base ingredients. Today gazpacho is primarily a descriptor for chilled tomato and vegetable soup, but chefs worldwide have claimed the label for other chilled soup variations, including muskmelon soup. Chilled soups are customarily served as an appetizer or dessert and are still favored during the summer as a cooling meal that requires no cooking. Many chefs appreciate incorporating heirloom muskmelons, including Sugar Queen melons, into chilled melon soups as the melons offer concentrated, unique flavorings. Sugar Queen melons can be combined with ingredients such as cucumbers, ginger, cardamom, white wine, red onions, or vinegar to create a sweet and savory soup. The dish can also be topped with a garnish of crusty bread, microgreens, radishes, finger limes, shredded seafood, or even blueberries for enhanced flavor.
Sugar Queen melons are believed by experts to be a type of Persian melon, which is a general descriptor used for several cultivars of melons originally from Persia, now modern-day Iran. Persian melons were introduced into Northern Africa in the Early Ages and were first documented in an Egyptian drawing dating to around 2400 BCE. The melons were also brought to the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages. It is difficult to trace the exact history of Persian melons since so many different types have been bred over time. Persian melons were later transported to the New World with Spanish and Portuguese explorers during the 16th century, and European colonists later planted the melons in home gardens throughout North America in the 17th century. The Sugar Queen melons featured in the photograph above are grown at Weiser Family Farms in Tehachapi, California. Weiser Family Farms has been growing premium fresh produce since 1977. When in season, Sugar Queen melons are available through farmer’s markets and specialty distributors. The variety is also sometimes grown in home gardens by melon enthusiasts.
Recipes that include Sugar Queen Melon. One is easiest, three is harder.
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