Consider yourself lucky if you ever get a chance to eat a French Charentais melon because they are absolute perfection. Charentais are unabashedly sweet – the kind of sweetness that puts other fruits to shame, because we all know fruits have egos the size of Texas. Circa 1920 from the Poitou-Charentes region of France, these highly refined cantaloupes were developed to be free of warts and blemishes typical of European orange melons. They are rarely cultivated in the US and do not ship well due to their delicate nature and short shelf life. It’s worth growing if you have a green thumb and a bit of dirt. The famous French poet, Antoine Girarde de Saint-Amant, had these words to say about the Charentais:
It is better than the beloved apricot, better than strawberries and cream, better than the Holy pear of Tours or the sweet green fig. Even the muscat grape I love is bitterness and muck compared to this divine melon.
O sweet grassy snake, crawling on a green bed. It is Apollo’s masterpiece. The brothels of Rouen will be free of the pox… tobacco smokers will have white teeth… I will forget my love’s favours before I forget you-
O fleur de tous les fruits! O ravisant MELON!
Doesn’t this guy look like a sea creature? The seeds remind me of Nemo…
How was I lucky enough to get a Charentais?
My melon came from the kiwi farmer at the Civic Center Farmer’s Market. Get this, the kiwi vendor disappears for months, then shows up last week with the best peaches of the season: Cling peaches with the texture and flavor of mangoes (that’s only a slight exaggeration). As I was standing there eyeing the cling peaches and begging for kiwis, a couple walked up and said… “Hey you are our kiwi guy!!!” – we all welcome the return of the kiwi farmer because everything he sells is spectacular, hence this Charentais. This farm stand is also where I got those amazing French Sugarplums… have you roasted some yet?
Most people (that eat meat) pair cantaloupes with prosciutto but I find the combination too overpowering for this particular specimen of exquisite melon. I choose to serve it chilled and shaved with a bit of fresh ricotta, a drizzle of honey, and pistachios. Then, I melt onto the floor from happiness.
Option number two would be Charentais melon with fresh Burrata cheese, a sorrel infused oil, and julienne mint. I usually get my burrata from AG Ferrari, who recently told us that the FDA has been “cracking down” on products… I don’t even know what that means, but I think I need another burrata retailer. For now though, I like the balance of ricotta and honey.
This would be perfect for a quick refreshing breakfast or a delightful end to a heavy meal (like the pizza I had today)… I used my ceramic vegetable peeler for these.