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Lisa Schölzel

Senior Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

instagram.com/whatscookinglisa/

The melon salad for lazy people on very hot days goes a little something like this: Take a watermelon (in the best case scenario, it’s chilled), squeeze some lime juice over it and sprinkle with freshly chopped mint. Of course, you can also use crumbled feta. This is perhaps the most common way people have prepared melon salad, but there’s actually much more you can do—and with less effort. In my opinion, the melon must always be perfectly ripe—that goes without saying—and served chilled. It doesn't matter which melon you buy. Anyone can make a wonderfully aromatic, sweet, and hearty salad. So let's start with a little botanical theory to find the right melon for your salad.

Melon salad: the base

You’ve probably seen the following varieties at the supermarket or farmer’s market. Probably the biggest difference between melons is their color: While watermelons usually have a green and striped skin, sugar melons can be recognized by their yellow, beige or even light brown color.

The different types of watermelon

Watermelons are less diverse than sugar melons. For example, there is the well-known large and oval watermelon with red pulp (Crimson Sweet), which can weigh up to 17.5 lb/8 kg. The Janosik melon, which weighs 9 - 11 lb/4 - 5 kg, has yellow pulp and a sweeter taste. If you prefer smaller watermelons, you can go for the Sugar Baby (also known as Maribo) with its dark green skin, round shape, and intensely sweet flavor. Or you can opt for Golden Midget, the smallest of the watermelons, which wears a fluorescent yellow rind.

The different types of sugar melon

Sugar melons are curiously more closely related to the cucumber than to the watermelon. Although they have a high water content, they are also rich in fiber and minerals.

Honeydew melon, as the name suggests, tastes relatively sweet and also contains more sugar than watermelons. You can recognize them by their yellow skin and the oval shape, similar to a football.

Galia melon can be recognized by the webbing on its yellow skin. It is round and has white pulp. You should only cut it open once the skin is wrinkled and no longer smooth.

The greenish yellow rind of the cantaloupe melon is also covered with a white webbing. It tastes sweet and is very juicy. You can tell when it is ripe by its strong fruity smell.

The Charentais melon is very similar to the cantaloupe. The major difference is that it has a smooth, light green skin. It is smaller, ripens faster, and has a very concentrated melon taste.

Every which way to make a melon salad

Which melon did you like? Are you looking for something sweet and juicy in your salad or do you prefer something more hearty? Here are some exciting combinations, which could also do with a dash of olive oil to round out the flavors:

- Watermelon, raspberries, strawberries, hazelnuts, lime juice, and mint 
- Cantaloupe, croutons, Prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, Parmesan, mint, and basil for a melon panzanella
- Galia, cucumber, red onion, feta, honey, lemon juice, dill, and poppy seeds 
- Watermelon, watermelon radish, grapefruit or orange, goat cheese, walnuts, and chives
- Yellow watermelon, cucumber, ginger, parsley, and apple cider vinegar
- Honeydew, shrimp, radish, spring onions, fish sauce, and lemon juice
- Honeydew, cucumber, radish, ricotta, watermelon radish, green chili, pistachios, and chives
- Watermelon, figs, endives, green olives, honey, and lemon juice 
- Watermelon, grapefruit, Greek yogurt, rosemary, chili flakes, and poppy seeds

How to dress and slice the melon

A melon salad doesn’t really need your traditional salad dressing. The most important thing is the freshness of the ingredients and making sure the melon is ripe. Then all it takes is a drizzle of some olive or sesame oil, a squeeze of lemon, orange or lime juice, or a few chili flakes and finely chopped herbs to bring out the natural flavor of the fruit in the best possible way.

When it comes to how you should cut your melon, you should stick to your preferences. Mine is to go wafer-thin, almost carpaccio style, and cut crosswise or following the natural shape of the melon to make long slivers. However, if you want to prepare a melon panzanella, diced melons are the way to go.

Melon salad recipes

A melon salad is usually tossed together by chance, when you spontaneously find yourself with ripe fruit, vegetables that need to be used up quickly, and various small ingredients that can be found in your pantry, like nuts and seeds. If you want to stick to a recipe, here are some to get you started:

Fruit salad in a pineapple

Fruit salad in a pineapple

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Grilled watermelon salad with peach

Grilled watermelon salad with peach

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Watermelon-beet salad with cherry tomatoes

Watermelon-beet salad with cherry tomatoes

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Watermelon and goat cheese salad with walnuts

Watermelon and goat cheese salad with walnuts

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Prosciutto e melone salad

Prosciutto e melone salad

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