As a youngster, I always had an aversion to rockmelon, or cantaloupe as we call it in Tasmania and Victoria. To my younger nose, it had a pungent odour, akin to old socks. It wasn’t until I travelled to Japan, where melons are coveted and a single one can cost thousands of dollars, that I began to appreciate them. Japanese farmers grow many different varietals within the rockmelon classification, and it is common practice to thin the fruit down to one per vine – so as to intensify the flavour.
On a recent visit to my friend Palisa Anderson, who has the fantastic Boon Luck Farm just out of Byron Bay, we ploughed through tasting four varieties of melon, all with such different flavours and textures. Some were almost blossom-like in their scent.
Alternative melon varieties have been popping up in produce markets all summer, so get out there and try some. It’s the French varietals I have tasted that have been the most aromatic, and the one I used for this dish was a Petit Gris de Rennes. An excellent summer not-quite-sweet but not-quite-savoury salad, it works well as an accompaniment to many dishes.