My sister and I watched Dad turn and fertilize the soil of his garden. Plant seedling plants for the tomatoes, string beans, black-eyed peas, squash, zucchini, and cantaloupe. We mostly watched the cantaloupe grow into long vines. Among the leaves, small buds gradually grew to burst into yellow blossoms. Then the beginning of the cantaloupe would appear. When it was at full size, my sister and I started a non-verbal game of who can get to the melon first. Picking a melon too early resulted in a bland taste, but if it stayed too long on the vine, it would rot on the ground. A melon is ready when the bottom has an overripe, sweet smell.
My sister had the advantage of watching the melons, because her bedroom window over looked the garden. Often, I would come home to find her finishing a whole melon. When I found a just ripe melon, I would eat it in less than 20 minutes. One year, Dad complained he never ate a melon from the garden, because my sister and I found them first.
Last week’s farmshare included one watermelon and two cantaloupes. Instead of consuming both cantaloupes in less than 40 minutes, I wondered what recipe to use. I seldom use my favorite fruit in recipes. It’s best to enjoy it simply as is, especially if their season is only a few weeks of the year. In my little girl thinking, two cantaloupes were not enough. In my adult thinking, it was just right, because I’m a long way from Dad’s vegetable garden.
A friend suggested making an Aqua Fresca. It’s difficult to imagine diluting my favorite summer fruit. Instead, strong brewed green tea replaced the water. I recommend brewing tea at home. Loose-leaf green tea has more nutrients than the dust sold in the small paper pouches (The triangle net bags have good quality tea leaves). The cantaloupe itself is a powerhouse of vitamin C and A with a healthy dose of B vitamins. As for the amount of sugar used in this drink, judge wisely to keep it healthy and light. If the melon is summer sweet, no additional sugar is needed.
This is the only time of year to eat cantaloupes. I’m convinced most people who don’t like it, probably had it in the winter when it’s tasteless. Why unripe melons are served off-season, I have no idea. There’s nothing like coming home to the smell of an overripe melon. Only melon lovers understand its seductive smell. Currently, I’m the only one in my household who likes cantaloupe. Such childhood games are of the past, but I will still eat a whole cantaloupe in less than 20 minutes.
Summer Cantaloupe Aqua Fresca with Green Tea
- 2 cups filtered water
- 2 tbsp. loose-leaf green tea*
- 1 small to medium cantaloupe or watermelon; remove and discard seeds; cut into 1-inch chunks
- (Optional) The juice of one lime
- Honey or sugar; the amount depends on the sweetness of the melon
- Ice as needed
- At least a 2-cup teapot with a loose-leaf strainer
- Heat water until tiny bubbles appear, but don’t let it boil. Add to a teapot with green tea leaves in a strainer. Steep for 2 minutes. Remove tea leaves (the strainer) from the teapot. Place the tea in the refrigerator to chill.
- In a food processor or blender, add cantaloupe chunks, limejuice (optional), honey, and one cup of the reserved cold green tea. Puree until smooth.
- Over a large bowl, strain puree. Use a spoon to press the solids against the strainer to extract more juice. Discard solids.
- Add the remaining 1-cup of green tea to the Cantaloupe Green Tea.
- Place in the refrigerator to chill.
- Serve with ice and more honey as needed.
*To make 1 cup of warm green tea use 1teaspoon of loose-leaf tea per cup. To make it strong, add more tea leaves, but do not steep for longer than 2 to 3 minutes. Also, loose-leaf tea can be steeped a few more times before it’s tasteless. To use the tea leaves again, double the steeping time. Example: Steep the first cup for 2 minutes, the second cup for 4 minutes, and the third cup for 8 minutes. Each sequent cup is a weaker tea. Usually, I add a small amount of mint leaves for the final steeping.