I obsess over melons each summer, especially cantaloupes and ambrosias. After years of throwing away many melons, I developed a technique that has served me pretty well: I go to Berkeley Bowl and other markets that sell cut melons, look for ones with good color, then I use the finger test to see if they are soft or hard, soft being the goal.
Last year I thought I had found my reliable melon: the Tuscan cantaloupe. In the winter I was getting Tuscans from Central America, then the local ones showed up. They were amazing: sweet, soft, and flavorful. This year I didn't see any Tuscans from Central America early in the year, and the local ones have been pale, hard, and without much flavor.
Sharlyns, which have usually been pretty dependable in past years, have also been hard and not very good.
River Dog Farm and other places offer Charantais melons, but they always disappoint in this country. (In France, you go to a market and smell the Charantias from 20 feet away. I've never had one in this country that comes close to what you can get in France.)
Right now I have a cut watermelon in the fridge that has no sweetness at all; a hard sharlyn with almost no flavor; and another greenish melon I think is a Piel de Sapo, which is also uninteresting.
Berkeley Bowl has had melons I think are called Sugar Kist. They have been reliably sweet, but they're kind of crispy and, aside from sweetness, just don't have much taste.
Have others found this year's melons disappointing? Any suggestions for reliable melons? (I'm not a fan of honeydews or orange honeydews.)
I'm waiting for Crane melons, which can be fantastic, but last year I drove up to Santa Rosa to visit the Crane Melon Barn and came home with two lousy melons.
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