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Honeydew

Judging by its modest exterior, you might expect ho-hum flavor from honeydew, but this juicy delight is the sweetest of the melons.

The ancient Egyptians considered honeydew sacred food—one of the earliest mentions of the fruit is in an Egyptian tomb dating from 2400 B.C. At one time only available to society's elite, it was a favorite of Napoleon, Josephine and Cleopatra, too.

Like casaba, honeydew (also known as honeymelon) is a type of muskmelon. In China it's known as Bailan melon or Wallace, because Henry A. Wallace introduced honeydew seeds to China when he was vice president of the United States.

Preferring warm weather and semi-arid conditions, honeydews are widely grown commercially in California, Arizona, Texas and Mexico.

A serving of honeydew will satisfy both your sweet tooth and about half of your vitamin C requirement for the day. Honeydews are also a good source of vitamin B6, folate and potassium.

White honeydew melons have green flesh and smooth white skin. Popular varieties include Honey Dew and Honey Dew Green Fresh. Yellow honeydews, such as Honey Dew Gold Rind, also have green flesh but yellow to gold skin. There are also honeydews with orange and gold flesh, but they're uncommon.

Honeydew is sweet and juicy enough to enjoy on its own, of course, but pair it with cottage cheese or vanilla yogurt and a sprig of mint for a lovely dessert or snack. Or slice it into wedges and serve with a raspberry sauce.

Scoop honeydew with a melon baller and combine with other melons, berries and kiwi for a colorful and luscious fruit salad, perhaps sprinkled with coconut and chopped dates. Or take a few extra minutes to carve the melon—along with watermelon and cantaloupe—using cookie cutters for a fun, healthy Fruit Flower Blossoms snacks to delight your kids.

Honeydew performs nicely—and unexpectedly—in savory dishes, too. Add it to salsas, use it to make a cold soup, or serve it in place of cucumbers in salads like this Melon Tabouli. (The flavor of honeydew is enhanced by a squirt of lemon or lime juice, so the pairing is a natural.)

Consider substituting honeydew for other melons in recipes, too. It would be delicious in place of the cantaloupe or watermelon in Summer Melon Salad with Mint and Prosciutto.

Finally, cool, sweet, bright honeydew makes an ideal beverage. Use it in smoothies or infused beverages.

Honeydews are usually available from May through October from U.S. producers (year-round from Mexico), though their peak season is July and August.

Choose a honeydew that's creamy white or yellow, with a firm, waxy surface. Avoid blemished, fuzzy, or green colored skin. There should be a little softness at the stem, and the melon will be heavy for its size if it's juicy. If very juicy, the seeds may rattle when the melon is shaken. It should have a sweet melon scent.

Honeydew continues to ripen after harvest, but fully mature melons have the best flavor, so choose a ripe one whenever you can. If you've brought home a less-than-ripe melon, store it at room temperature until it ripens, then place it in the refrigerator and eat within a few days.

Wash the melon in warm soapy water before cutting. Remove the seeds and strings, then cut into wedges or halves, cubes or balls with a melon baller.