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The melon must die, John Allemang, April 9, 2008.
The world does not need out-of-season melons.
If ever a product recall enhanced our lives, it was the recent decision by Canadian and U.S. authorities to block shipments of cantaloupes from Honduras that have been linked to salmonella outbreaks. By taking a stand against disease, the officials who watch over the mass migration of fruit have also found a way to banish dullness from our diets, if only temporarily.
That's not their intention, of course. But until we have a really useful food agency that can figure out a way to protect us from tasteless fruit, we'll have to make the best of the bureaucracy we've got. And any government watchdog that can keep boring imported cantaloupe from tinting the first fruit salads of spring deserves our heartfelt thanks.
As a confirmed opponent of unseasonal cantaloupes, though, I'm more inclined to say, "What took you so long?"
For a couple of weeks every summer, it's possible to taste melons that define the meaning of pleasure. People who don't normally associate the fruit course with shivers of sensual delight stab a morsel of musk or charentais melon and suddenly find themselves quoting the more erotic food similes from the Song of Songs.
To me, this isn't farfetched at all. It's exactly the kind of primeval physical response ripe fruit is meant to produce. When you breathe in the melon's heavy perfume or feast on the honeyed succulence of its sun-warmed flesh, it's a reminder that evolutionary success, for both us and the melon, doesn't have to be some grim Darwinian battle for survival.
Tell that to the cantaloupe exporters. They see us as soulless, pleasure-denying suckers who can't live without watery cubes of orangish pulp in the eternal-summer diets of our make-believe world.
They have no compunction about sending us their unripe fruit that can do one thing and one thing alone: travel thousands of miles without bruising or going soft. This, it need hardly be said, is actually a bad thing in a melon, which is at its best at the very point when it is most delicate.
The cantaloupe and its mutant sibling, the equally dull honeydew melon, aren't the only out-of-season fruits that deserve the old heave-ho. But somehow they manage to escape the scorn that rains down on grotesque, over-inflated strawberries - being boring, everyday melons, they just keep turning up without much expectation or justification, as if having a vague sweetness were good enough.
And perhaps it is, for those who don't know any better, who think every tomorrow should be just like yesterday. But for anyone who knows what a real melon can and should taste like, these pale imitations can't disappear fast enough.
A-And the comments tell the tale ... Globe Comments.
anonymouse Z from Canada writes: Add tomatoes and various berries to your list. Ontario gets decent enough strawberries and blueberries for a few weeks each summer. The rest of the time we pay high price for fruit that's tastes like flavored water.
Kerry Max from Ottawa, Canada writes: What a sad commentary desmonstrating the state of our "immediate-gratification" world! There are those among us who appreciate the subtlety of flavor arising from different degrees of ripeness. To restrict our imports to only those products oversaturated in sweetness (and as the recent UK experiment on oranges demonstrated - possibly void of vitamins), is to drastically curb the spectrum of potential sensual pleasure. Long live the underipe melon!
Jay Dubya from Toronto, Canada writes:
Obviously it is preferable to enjoy fruits in season particularly locally grown ones - who wouldn't.
But for a vast majority - prime local fruit is a luxury found at up-market grocers not typically local grocery stores which emphasis value and price. Where one hopes to get "a good one" .
This commentary is so elitist and one wonders if the G&M staff have lost touch with the common man.
John S from Canada writes: So.... what's wrong with an "elitist" food column? If you're one of those who take the puritcanical "food is sustenance" view then don't read articles which are clearly going to be about food as pleasure, but leave them for those who do. There are more than a few who do enjoy this kind of article. Most people can afford at least some fine in season local fruit. And there is nothing wrong with a column extolling its virtues (aesthetic, nutritional and environmental).
Eric the Red from Uzbekistan writes: JOHN ALLEMANG, Mr. culinary snob.
I bought melon the other day and it was delicious.
We should save the melon and give the old heave-ho to pedantic articles such as this one that bring little to the journalistic community.
A C from TO, Canada writes: ........Who really cares about melon this much, one way or the other?
Tim Garrett from Winnipeg, Canada writes: Not to mention that the rules governing agriculture in places like Honduras are waaaay more lax than ours. Studies have shown pesticides on fruit and vegetables from Latin America are significantly higher than what's allowed or acceptable in North America. This has been tagged to our plummeting song bird population - they are being poisoned in South America and don't return in the spring. There is the habitat destruction to grow these crops. Finally, there is the amount of fertilizer they are using, effectively destroying the soil. This affects indigenous populations. So we can have melons in February.
Hey, it's a free world. But people should be making informed decisions not only about their own health, but the health of the farmers and people in these countries and the health of the planet.
Hugh Draper from Vancouver, Canada writes: I've always liked melons.
guy tozer from Saskatoon, Canada writes: The salmonella outbreak in Honduras did not stop my store from getting melons, as they come from Guatamala. That being said however, melons, peaches, nectarines and many other "winter" fruits and vegetables are tasteless attempts at agriculture. Buy in season and can or freeze.
Snowed in in Barrie from Canada writes: Buy a cantaloupe about a week before you plan to eat it. Wrap it in a cloth bag or a paper bag and put it in a cool place such as a pantry. One day, maybe five days later, you will open your pantry door and, having forgotten all about your cantaloupe, you will wonder what that smell is. Plan to cut into the cantaloupe the day after the next. Mmmmm....
Wulfher SkullSplitter from Canada writes: Such foods imported from afar damage our environment. People should try to eat locally grown foods, until we discover a way of transporting such food without polluting the earth. Obviously this comment extends to clothing, toys, etc. Also, melons give me gas.
Kevin Dooley from Canada writes: Right on, Allemang!
The issue is that most grocery stores will only buy from suppliers that can give them large volume. My local supermarket always has loads of tasteless produce from South America and the southern US. The little fruit stand across the street has locally grown produce. The locally grown stuff is half the price and has twice the flavour because it's also fresher. Elitist? Hardly.
Sure, I'm in downtown Toronto where there are small vendors. But a little effort always pays off. If I were outside of Toronto, I'd go looking for farmers markets and places where I could buy directly from the farm - and it would be cheaper still, and probably better quality as well. Elitist? Not even close.
The problem is that, as consumers, we want the convenience of one-stop shopping. For that convenience we pay higher prices for poorer products. Elitist? Quite the opposite.
Rollo Tomasi from Foodie, Belgium writes: My granny used to grow Sweetheart Cantelopes in Ontario, a summertime treat.
Almost as tasty and available now are melons from Guadeloupe and are about 3 or 4 euros each right now. Figs are around, soft, juicy, flavourful, as is passion fruit. Of course, it's the height of mango season in Sri Lanka, up to 8 euros each, air freight. Orange and humungous, the sinew bred out of them for a thousand years, they are plump and potent with flavour.
Able Bodied Man from Colony of Van Isle, Canada writes:
Even potato chips are getting lousy.
The Religious Left from Canada writes: Melons: Serious Business.
Dan Shortt from Toronto, Canada writes: Good Lord. I can't really buy into Allemang's assessment here.
Yes, there may be some issues around fruits imported from other parts of the world, but please ....
" .... as if having a vague sweetness were good enough ..." Mr. Allemang says. And yes, it IS good enough for millions of diabetics and pre-diabetics looking to get some nutritional benefits from a fruit not over-ladden with sugars, as many other popular fruits are.
Concerned about eating out-of-season imported fruit, Mr. Allemang? Just make sure the next orange or banana you eat was grown right her in Southern Ontario.
B Benton from Thornhill, Canada writes: re Rollo Tomasi. I'm glad I don't live in Belgium. 3 or 4 Euros for melons, when they are common here at $1. 8 Euro's for a mango?? Forget it.
As for the article, I don't much like cantaloupes anyway. Nor honeydews. Yes, even when ripe. I greatly prefer watermelons - but don't bother eating them until summer when the quality is more reliable.
G Young from Canada writes: never have understood the appeal of said melons....maybe i've never eaten one that was properly ripe...
Tim Fromhere from Cd. del Carmen, Mexico writes: How good a mellon is depends on the growing conditions and when it is picked rather than the season. I eat a lot of mellons. Sometimes they are very tastey, sometimes rather tasteless, no matter what the season.
But whether or not you eat mellons should be a matter of personal freedom. This writer seems to be suggesting that the Canadian government should be regulating what fruit people eat at what time of year. It sounds like he wants fruit inspectors checking Canadians' refriderators to make sure there are no mellons in there in January.
Hornsworth Portswiler from adanac, Canada writes: Actually there was a study done in Germany that found that because freight boats are fuel efficient, it is often better to import food than try to grow it in your own country. But there are limits to everything. Being able to buy any kind of food anywhere in the world at any time is a modern miracle, but not always sensible. Especially when the product lacks flavour and nutrients.
stand up mimi from Vancouver, Canada writes: Get rid of the tasteless melons and everything else that passes for fruit in the middle of winter. Food is about pleasure, not simply sustenance. Having tasteless fruit in January hardly justifies the toll this produce takes on the environment. Besides, underripe fruit is not as nutritious.
I would far rather have a peach in January that I canned myself than a hard, tasteless fresh one from South America. However, I've heard it said that canning fruit is now "elitist". (My grandmother would be in hysterics if she could hear what people are now calling "elitist").
Chester Proudfoot from United States writes: I was hoping that at least someone had come to their olfactory and taste senses and realized that all melons should be done away with once and for all. When will all people be free to eat from fruit platters that haven't been contaminated by melon? Melon people must be smokers, having no care for how the taste of canteloupe or honeydew fouls up the intricate flavours of other truly delicious fruit such as blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. It especially fouls up pineapple. This oppression must end. I look to Canada to inaugurating the worldwide ban on the use of melons in public venues. Free our tastebuds!
Anger Equals Danger from Canada writes: stand up mimi from Vancouver, Canada writes: However, I've heard it said that canning fruit is now "elitist".
What the . . . ? ? ? Seriously? You mean the four generations of women who get together every summer at Mom's place and can peaches and pears and plums and fruit cocktail and make jams and brandies cherries and marinara sauce and dill pickles . . . are all "elitist"???
stand up mimi from Vancouver, Canada writes: Yes, Anger, apparently canning fruit means you eat locally, which is an elitist past time to some. I and the generations of canning women before me thought it was just common sense.
Michele K from Ottawa, Canada writes: Chester Proudfoot, I know you wrote that sort of tongue-in-cheek, but you are absolutely right!
How is it that a bland, tasteless fruit like melon so readily taints the flavour of everything else it comes in contact with? I am sick - SICK - of perfectly good pineapple or other sliced fruit being ruined by having touched melon on the fruitplate or in the fruit salad.
That being said, our friend from Belgium's vivid description of good fruit, together with Barrie Snowed In's advice on how to properly deal with this vile fruit, almost have me convinced to give melon another try - not with pineapple, mind you.
Alex MacLean from Toronto, Canada writes: Well said, Mr. Allemang. We have enough bland produce on offer, at inflated prices. As for it being elitist, it needn't be. Eat fresh produce in season, and can or freeze the rest. Potatoes are of good quality year round, ditto apples and oranges, but the rest of it is mostly an expensive failed treat, and carbon-heavy jet delivery (Chile, Peru, etc.) to boot. Summer doesn't last all year, at least here. Let's enjoy the season when we're in them, and then wait for them to come around again. That's real living.
Political Irony is Hilarious from Canada writes: I think the author's point is that we are now importing foods from everywhere, throughout the year, regardless of whether the food is in season or not. Previously, the melons were a seasonal treat, and when we enjoyed it in season, it was special. Now that it is available throughout the year, it no longer holds its uniqueness.
Posted 09/04/08 at 2:34 PM EDT | Alert an Editor | Link to Comment
Puntal Puntal from Calgary, Canada writes: The Religious Left from Canada writes: Melons: Serious Business.
Ryan M from Gatineau, Canada writes: The nutriet content of so many of these imported foods is a fraction of what it once was. The same goes for Tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables sprayed with a chemical to have something not close to being ripe change the colour it should be when it is (hence lack of taste).
What about the time honored tradition of canning in season fruits and veggies? You'll get more nutrition out of canned in season food than a 'fresh' out of season, mutant fruit.
Broken Record from Victoria, B.C., Canada writes: I'd kill for a local melon, tomato, anything. Here in B.C. except for Okanagan peaches (dry, disappointing little things compared to Niagara's) and the occasional kiwifruit precious little is local unless one has the time. money and patience to visit what few farms we haven't paved over or turned into golf courses for retiring Albertans. Tomatoes hate our cold nights and melons like more heat than we get. Having grown up in the Niagara Peninsula, I was spoilt by the great local produce. Just once, here, I'd like to find a tomato that smells like a tomato or a muskmelon (as "cantaloupes" are properly called) that smells like anything at all except the container it was shipped in.
Michele K from Ottawa, Canada writes: I wonder if it's nostalgia warping our memories somewhat, Broken Record - I grew up in BC and remember well the juicy peaches bought at roadside stands in the OK-nagan (as we call it). And the black cherries - oh, the black cherries!
Or maybe it's just getting any of them fresh off the tree, wherever that tree happens to be.
Broken Record from Victoria, B.C., Canada writes: Michele K, they're not quite the same by the time they hit Thrifty Foods in Victoria. Perhaps quality has slipped since the good old days, who knows? I just know every peach I've had in the last 15 years has been a disappointment. And what about local Concord grapes still warm from the sun? Those thick, sour skins! MMM! It's a lucky day nowadays to find these at the store.
carol c from Canada writes: In the height of summer at the grocery stores here in Tronna I see fruit and tomatoes from Mexico. There are Ontario ones, but you have to buy a basket of whatever it is. Whose genius idea is this? There are 2 people in my household and a basket of tomatoes is too much. Luckily I know where the farmer's markets are, but this seems utterly ridiculous to me, that I can't buy 4 Ontario field tomatoes for a tomato feast. I have to buy a dozen. Hopefully with the move towards local food this will change.
guy tozer from Saskatoon, Canada writes: stand up mimi from Vancouver: Where on Earth did you think that canning was "elitist"? You, coming from lahlah land, I can see your pointless accusation. I am a 60 year old male and I still can my own fruits and vegetables, not to mention fish and chicken .I smoke my own meats and make sausage. No preservatives or nitrates and other crap chemicals in my food. Buy the ingredients at auction andy ou can afford to do it. No bland tasting winter stuff for me!
stand up mimi from Vancouver, Canada writes: Broken Record - I think you might need to go to a farmer's market to get a good Okanagan peach. Grocery stores are all about storage, which may be why you're not finding them juicy. If they're picked too green in order to store longer, they never amount to much. They need to be quite round before they're picked. Lots of the ones I see in the grocery stores are not round enough or ripe enough, and that's a guarantee they'll be dry and not sweet. But Okanagan peaches are still big, juicy and delicious, but you probably have to get them directly from a grower. I grew up surrounded by fantastic Okanagan peaches, apricots, cherries, pears, and apples - and the grocery store versions of these were always a joke. I suppose they are even more so now.
stand up mimi from Vancouver, Canada writes: guy tozer - I think you misunderstood me. I have heard others suggest that canning is elitist simply because they think local eating is elitist, along with Slow Food and organic farms. I completely disagree with them. I can and freeze my own fruit and tomatoes, and I'll be drying a lot of stuff this year as well. Most people think it's a great idea, but some don't get it at all.
There seem to be two misconceptions. One, they think it costs more to get produce from farmers markets (and you need good produce, or don't bother canning), and therefore only the well off shop there. And two, they think you need all kinds of leisure time to can and make preserves. But buying produce in bulk directly from growers is less expensive than buying in bits and pieces from the supermarket. And canning fruit is not that time consuming or difficult. Tomatoes take slightly more effort, but it's quite rewarding. Food should be delicious.
guy tozer from Saskatoon, Canada writes: stand up mimi from Vancouver: If you want it bad enough, you make time for it . People today can't seem to do time management at all.
Saskatchewan Seal Hunter Club from Canada writes: Melons are only good ,when you inject them with a mickey of Vodka.
Rollo Tomasi from Belgium writes: Michele K, if a melon--canteloupe, honeydew, gala--doesn't smell sweet, don't buy it. Sniff the picked end to be sure.
Secondly, don't cut it into sections, instead slice off the peels like they do in the Caribbean, then cut in half and remove all the seeds.
Jay Dubya from Toronto, Canada writes: Food snobs have missed the point.
Elitist becasue who doesn't like a tasty fruit. It elitist - when you have the time and resources (ie a car ) to seach out a little famers market , to pay the extra cost of a prime condition fruit - when others can only buy the "weekly special" or otherwise can't aford it, don't have a car or extra bus fare to search out a farmers market.
Yes, enjoy you melon becasue obviously unless we have a highly developed sense of culture and taste - we can't enjoy it as you do. if only we had the choice - silly me for picking a tastelss one over a tasty one.
Give me a break - waxing poetically about melons is when you have too much time or money and likely both.
Mia Zen from Canada writes: Another good reason to stop importing melon is the ecological cost in transport. I worked for a food bank during a few years and we received so many fruits and vegetables from far awaw places, often nearly rotten. Often, I was thinking about the farm workers who grew them, and about their living conditions. The foodbank's clients were mainly recent immigrants, who would refuse them once they had tried them, because these fruits and vegetables were tasteless and very little was good to eat.
Because of transportation, a lot of these items are picked up before they are riped. Some of them arrive here both rotten and unriped.
Then they are given to charity for tax deductions, and food banks workers and volunteers have to sort them out. Never mind the work required, but rotten vegies take space and require more transportation to rarely end up in a compost. Otherwise, they fill plastic bags (more pastic bags) to join the regular garbage, demanding more work from city workers.
Gogh Forit from Canada writes: People should put the article in perspective. All articles for that matter. John Allemang is a G&M writer, not THE world authority on fruit, food or anything else for that matter. It's only his opinion and while some will concur with what he says, others will disagree. I guess I'm fortunate that I live only an hour's drive from the Annapolis Valley and so in summer take advantage of locally grown strawberries (which by the way all growers supply the supermarkets with those tasteless California-style berries because the stores like that they keep their firm look and bright colour for up to two weeks on the shelf) blueberries, pears, plums, even peaches and of course apples. Both Honeycrisp and Jona Gold apples will keep in your refridgerator for up to four months without showing shrinkage, so you're able to enjoy local produce into the New Year. Buy a freezer and support your local U-Picks. You never know you just might enjoy these forays into the countryside and get away from the drollery that is the city. Make the trip an outing and after doing the U-Pick, eat at a local restaurant (not fast food). There's a place outside of Kentville, The Gastro Pub, which uses local ingredients as much as possible and even has a microbrewery on site that uses hops grown locally. These farms need your support and if you really want to stop the mega farm from providing you with tasteless melons and strawberries, then give your "neighbour" some help by harvesting the food they produce and put it into your freezer. Then you and your family can enjoy smoothies and pies the year round along with all of the nutrient benefits these foods provide.
Posted 10/04/08 at 9:04 AM EDT | Alert an Editor | Link to Comment
that guy from Canada writes: See? I'm not insane. Kills me that the local food court fruit purveyor tries to charge me an extra dollar for requesting a fruit cup WITHOUT melons all winter long. canteloupe and honeydew can be so tasty, at the right time...but i tell you, 75% of the time they taste like nothing. and of course food court fruit cups are made with 75% melon.
F/A josquin from Canada writes:
Never liked melons--never, and prefer my berries, like straw or blue, fresh, local and seasonal----or frozen.
Any other time of year they are a joke, and, as seen in this ruling, can be dangerous as well.
long live local farmers and seasonal food.
ps the writer is not being elitist , he is being honest----
F/A josquin from van, Canada writes:
right on Gogh Forit
ps----- Jona gold apples, right now, are crisp and sweet. I buy them everyday
stand up mimi from Canada writes: Jay Dubya from Toronto, Canada writes: "It elitist - when you have the time and resources (ie a car ) to seach out a little famers market , to pay the extra cost of a prime condition fruit - when others can only buy the "weekly special" or otherwise can't aford it, don't have a car or extra bus fare to search out a farmers market."
So a farmer's market is "elitist" if you don't have a car? The farmer's market closest to me is closer than my grocery store. I could easily take a bus there if I didn't have a car. I could also take a bus to the one at Nat Bailey, Trout Lake, or the Wise Hall in Vancouver. Plenty of people shopping at both those markets do not have cars. In fact, most people who don't have cars live in urban centres where there are convenient farmer's markets.
As for cost - it's just not that much more expensive to buy good fruit, especially, as I said, if you buy in bulk. People who don't buy from growers never believe that.
Randy McClure from Canada writes: 4 years from now oil will be $300 a barrell and you won' be able to afford 4,000 mile melons. Eat them while you can. check out http://www.energybulletin.net for all the gory details.
guy tozer from Saskatoon, Canada writes: Jay Dubya from Toronto: You are the master of your own fate: Sounds like you didn't master yours so well, and now are pi$$ed off at anyone better than you financially. Bad attitude chum!!
John Burton from Toronto, Canada writes: Get over it. Put some salt on it and will be just fine.
Anuradha Bose from ottawa, writes: Mr. Allemang has never been to Central Asia and eaten the melons that grow in Uzbekiston. What we get here are pale imitations....besides is there any need to eat melons out of season?