Santa Claus melon
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The Santa Claus melon, sometimes known as Christmas melon or piel de sapo, is a variety of melon (family Cucurbitaceae, Cucumis melo, Inodorus group) that grows to about a foot in length and is oval in shape. It has a thick, green-striped outer rind, pale green to white inner flesh with a mild melon flavour and sweetness close to honeydew melons, if not more so.
A Santa Claus melon is usually consumed for breakfast, lunch, dessert or as a snack. The melon should be slightly soft, especially on the ends, and should be washed, split in half length-wise and its seeds spooned out.
It has a blotched green peel after which it is named in Spanish (piel de sapo translates as "toad skin"). A closely related melon with the same shape but with yellow peel is known as 'Amarillo' or canary melon. The attractive green and gold-to-bright yellow-striped Santa Claus melon somewhat resembles a small watermelon. Inside is a mellow and mildly flavoured pale greenish flesh very similar to that of a honeydew. The ripest Santa Claus melon will have soft blossom ends that yield to gentle pressure and a vibrant yellow hue. Because of its thick skin, this melon does not release a tell-tale aroma when ripe.
This melon was named in English as recognition of its long keeping qualities, i.e., "until Christmas."
This melon is widely available in the Northern Hemisphere. Grown in California and Arizona, they are harvested from June through October. During the winter months, Santa Claus melons are imported from South America. They are grown in Brazil and Central America to supply to Europe during autumn, winter and spring. Maturing about 110 days after planting, this melon can grow to 12 inches in length and six inches in diameter.
The piel de sapo originated in Spain, where it is widely grown – about 30,000 hectares are cultivated annually. La Mancha is the main region in Spain producing this type, with 12,000 hectares. Another important growing area is Murcia that has specialized in growing early crops. There, they plant mainly in mid-March and harvest from mid-June to mid-July.
The most popular cultivar in the last 10 years in the main producing region of Spain (La Mancha) has been 'Sancho', a hybrid bred by the seedhouse Syngenta. Many open-pollinated cultivars were grown in Spain until recently, but hybrids have replaced them almost entirely, as they offer to the growers higher yields and better resistance to disease. Old cultivars have been preserved in germplasm collections. They are grown outdoors with plantings starting in May and running until June. Production starts in mid-July and ends in September.
The flesh of uncut melons is juicier and softer if kept at room temperature one or two days before serving. Once ripened or cut, it should be refrigerated in plastic. An excellent keeper, this hardy melon can be kept up to six weeks longer than other varieties.
- Schmidt, Arno (2003) . Chef's Book of Formulas, Yields and Sizes. (3rd (eBook) ed.). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. p. 96. ISBN 0471476293.
- Callahan, Genevieve A. (1933). Sunset all-western cook book; how to select, prepare, cook, and serve all typically western food products.. Stanford University, Calif.: Stanford University Press. p. 80. ISBN 1429012269.
- Lori Alden. "Santa Claus melon". The Cook's Thesaurus. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- Image of a Piel de Sapo
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