My grandfather used to say “People only go back to the store for 3 things: peaches, strawberries and cataloupe.”

What he meant, was that only those three things would cause someone to go back to the store for more before their next shopping day.  Now, in defense of my Papou, he said that before there were CandyCots, Sumos, and Cara Cara Navels.  And without ever having a GROW cherry.

He was clearly right about the first two- peaches and strawberries.  I already knew that.

But cantaloupe?  When he said it, I didn’t believe him.  I never really considered cantaloupe.  While we ate tons of produce as kids (I was the 4th generation Chicago produce market kid, after all;), but we never ate much melon.  It was always something that they put an under-ripe slice of on your breakfast plate at the diner on the corner.

More a splash of color than a fruit option.

Then he taught me how to pick a ripe one.  Look through the ‘netting’ to the rind.  If it’s green, leave it.  If it’s orange/straw colored, eat it.  Is there a little vine still connected to the stem end?  Leave it.  It wasn’t mature when it was picked and will never ripen.  If the stem end is clean, the vine has slipped off upon picking.  It was mature, and will ripen beautifully.

Don’t thump it, don’t sniff it, don’t press it.

Look through the ‘netting’ and pay attention to the stem.  That’s all it takes.  Needless to say, I eat a lot of melon.  Especially in the summer.  Partly because I was taught how to pick one, partly because it reminds me of that story.  But mostly because it’s delicious.

We’re in the thick of our Westside melon season.  Cantaloupes, especially, from Turlock and Firebaugh and the like are on our shelves and are as good as they’ll be all year.

Use Papou’s tips, pick yourself a winner, and we’ll likely see you sooner than you thought;)  -JH