One of the glories of Provence is the Cavaillon melon (also known as Cantaloup or Charentais). With its green skin and orange flesh, this intensely sweet and juicy fruit speaks of the 300 days of sunshine the region receives in a year.
The Cavaillon melon's growing period is long – from May to September – and it is picked by hand so as not to damage it. You will find it everywhere – markets, roadside stalls, stores – but you may not be sure how to pick one that is perfect for eating.
How to tell if a melon is ready to eat? You can smell the ‘navel’, it should have a strong melon smell, but those in the know say that is not enough. The melon should also be comparatively heavy for its size, as it weighs more when it is full of sugar and therefore ripe. And another sign is if there are cracks around the little stem, and the stem is ready to come off.
At a market, stall or greengrocer, you can ask for a melon that is ready to eat today, or tomorrow, or the next day. The seller will know which melon will be perfect for you.
Cavaillon makes quite a thing of its melons, especially in July when the melon festival hits town, led by the Knights of the Order of the Melon. There is also a Michelin-starred restaurant in Cavaillon, Maison Prévot, whose chef is obsessed with melon and manages to include it in many of his dishes.