Crane Melons

by Jeanne


This weekend I toured two Sonoma-based organic farms. The first was Grossi’s growing all things vegetable and well-know for their melons, particularly Crane melons. The second was Peterson’s Farm a great spot for kids as you can pet and feed the animals and learn about beekeeping and their specialty, honey.

Crane melons are a melon-cantaloupe cross. It’s a thick-skinned, teardrop-shaped, hold-it-in-the-palm-of-your-hand melon. This variety is exceptionally juicy and flavorful, but very hard to find outside of Sonoma County, California due to its rather fragile composition. In the 1920s, Oliver Crane planted a Japanese melon that had a reputation for growing well, unirrigated, in the adobe soils common in the Santa Rosa area. Four generations of the Crane family have raised these melons. During the 1990s the family lost their fight to restrict the legal use of “Crane” to only those melons grown on their farm.

Crane melons have been marked for preservation under Slow Food’s The Ark project. This preservation effort seeks to save social and cultural heritage, animal breeds, fruit and vegetables, cured meats, cheese, cereals, pastas, cakes and confectionery. I’d like to be on this boat of biodiversity for 40 days!

The Cook’s Thesaurus provides an overview with pictures of the various types of melons. Many don’t know that melons are in the same gourd family as squashes and cucumbers. This does explain why melons have similar structure to winter squash with thick flesh and an inner seed-filled middle section.

Here in the United States, cantaloupes are typically eaten raw as a dessert or as part of a fruit salad.

In Asia, melons are commonly treated as vegetables and are cooked; however, these are not the sweet varieties. For example the pale, elongated Chekiang melon is grown from Thailand up through Southeast China to Japan where it is pickled and serves as a savory condiment.

Dried melon seeds are a common snack in Central and South America, and the Middle East.

Melons are in the same gourd family as squashes and cucumbers. Most melons have similar structure to winter squash with thick flesh and inner seed-filled midsection. The most common type of melon we come across in the U.S. which we call a cantaloupe is to be more particular, a musk melon. This group is defined by the netted skin appearance.

Cantaloupe melons are so named for the town of Cantalupo near Rome where they supposedly were first grown in Europe. California grows 70% of the U.S. musk melon crop, with Texas and Arizona second and third in production.

Sliced into wedges, sprinkled with powdered ginger, wrapped in pancetta or as they do in Mexico dusted with chile pepper melon is a healthly snack–and worth seeking out from a farm stand.

Melon Soup
Serves 4-6 people

1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and quartered
1 large orange, juiced
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch ground ginger
1 pinch salt

1 orange, zested (for garnish)

Scoop out and lightly chop melon into small pieces.
Place into food processor. Process until smooth.
Transfer to a bowl and add orange juice, cream, sugar, salt and ginger.
Cover and refrigerate for 3 and up to 5 hours.
Zest orange and garnish soup with orange peel.