Photo by Rebecca Firkser

Honeydo this before they're out of season

Rebecca Firkser and Kate Welsh
August 02, 2018

When they’re in season, melons become approximately nine billion times more delicious. Those crunchy, watery cantaloupe cubes in your fruit salad all winter suddenly are sticky-sweet and deeply fragrant. Biting into watermelon goes from being sort of reshinging to a religious experience. Honeydew is, well, still kind of mediocre when compared to the the other two melons, but when it’s in season it actually has a flavor. Essentially, when you’re working with summer melons, things can only get better. And speaking of which, tossing these fruits in a salad is perfectly fine, but we need to tell you about another way to dress melon: with savory seasoning. That’s right, za’atar and chili powder aren’t just for eggs and roasted vegetables. When paired with perfumey melons, your favorite salty, savory, and umami-heavy spices can elevate the sweetness of a melon so magically, it’s scientifically proven been our humble experience that it’s hard to stop eating. So go forth and dunk your watermelon in garam masala, your cantaloupe in everything bagel seasoning, and your honeydew in cumin.

First things first: Taco seasoning is great on everything. Accept it. Embrace it. Cover your life in taco seasoning.

But beyond taco seasoning, we noticed some melons paired especially perfectly with particular spice blends. Here’s what we’d suggest:

Photo by Rebecca Firkser

Cantaloupe and Sumac

Sumac, a dark red ground spice, is made from berries from the Middle Eastern sumac bush. It’s bright and a little tart, and to me is one of the most perfumed spices around. When we dusted it on cantaloupe, it not only looked beautiful, but it tasted beautiful: It was floral and lemony, like taking a big whiff of yellow roses.

Cantaloupe and Everything Bagel Seasoning

With cantaloupe’s status as every hotel breakfast’s favorite melon, it sort of made sense that the most breakfast-y of our spice blends would be its match. The gentle sweetness of the melon does good work against the garlic flecks, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and salt of the everything bagel seasoning. And texturally, the velvety nature of ripe cantaloupe held on to the spice blend well.

Photo by Rebecca Firkser

Watermelon and Garam Masala

Garam masala, an Indian spice blend, typically has coriander, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and black pepper—at least. There’s a lot going on in there, and it’s exactly what gives curries it’s comforting, warm quality. But when you pair it with watermelon, you get to see how well garam masala does with sweet stuff. I was almost reminded of gingerbread. Those warming spices paired with watermelon’s sugary sweetness could have been cookie dough.

Watermelon and Furikake

Of course, watermelon’s sweetness is practically crying out for some salt, which is why you so often see it paired with savory cheeses and flaky Maldon. Furikake, a Japanese spice blend, nails this flavor: Between the dried fish, seaweed, sesame seed, and MSG, this is an umami bomb of a seasoning. It manages to make watermelon’s sweetness even sweeter, and the furikake even saltier. It’s a wild bite.

Photo by Rebecca Firkser

Honeydew and Cumin

Poor, maligned honeydew gets a serious boost with cumin, a foundational spice for cuisines ranging from Mexican to Indian to Greek. A little lemony, a little nutty, and deeply earthy, it gives honeydew an increased florality that makes it seem a little braver than it normally does.

Honeydew and Za’atar

Za’atar, a complex Middle Eastern spice blend that usually contains things like thyme, sesame seeds, marjoram, oregano, and salt—but also can include cumin, sumac, fennel and/or coriander, just for kicks—is kind of a revelation for honeydew. Instead of highlighting the melon’s sweetness, it grounds it, and makes it greener somehow. It’s melon magic, and I am here for it.

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