ASIAN MELONS

Q: How do Asian Melons relate to sweeter melon varieties? 

If there’s one food trend that is getting a lot of airplay this year, it’s ‘authenticity’. At the heart of the trend is the consumer’s preference for traditional cooking methods, flavour combinations and produce- all of which result in an authentic dining experience not easily replicated at home.

The produce markets show clear evidence of this trend, with Asian and exotic produce lines in particular taking up more of the market floor and increasing in abundance.  In the spirit of authenticity, we have dedicated our bulletin this week to Asian Melons, which are abundant and fantastic eating at this time of year. Asian Melons are affordable and at their peak in summer, so now is the ideal time to use their unique texture and flavour to full effect.

ASIAN MELON VARIETIES: 

CHI QUA: (Hairy Melon, Fuzzy gourd)- staple of the Chinese diet

Image: chinese-food-recipes.net

Appearance: 20-25 cm long cylindrical fruit

Skin: green with fine hairs covering the rind

Look for: HAIR! Hair is a sign of freshness

Storage/Shelf life: Store in a cool place (not fridge) where they will stay fresh for several weeks

Flavour: Mild, not unlike zucchini

Usage: Peel- slice, dice, shred or stuff. Add to soups, steam, stir-fry or bake

 

DONG QUA: (Winter Melon)- closely related to Chi Qua

Image: specialtyproduce.com

Appearance: large and heavy, round to oblong (akin to a watermelon if not bigger)

Skin: green with white blotches, caused by a layer of wax (easily removed)

Storage/Shelf life: whole melons with the wax coat intact will keep for over a month refrigerated, once cut best use them in under a week

Flavour: mild to bland – texture like a zucchini

Usage: holds shape well when cooked- used in may Asian soups, stews and curries. Also, stuffed and baked, pickled and candied

 

LONG MELON: (opo squash) – closely related to the Hairy Melon

Image: www.marketfresh.com.au

Appearance: thin, large, cylindrical – like a cucumber

Skin: light green with a waxy coating (young melons have fuzz but this is lost with maturity)

Storage/Shelf life: whole melons with the wax coat intact will keep for a week or so, once cut best use them in a few days

Flavour: Similar to zucchini or squash when young however as matures gets more bitter

Usage: Peel- slice, dice, shred or stuff. Add to soups, steam, stir-fry or bake

 

SZE QUA: (Smooth luffa, Sponge luffa, Sponge Gourd)

Image: www.marketfresh.com.au

Appearance: large, green, cylindrical fruit

Skin: smooth (slightly ribbed) with pale stripes

Storage/Shelf life: Store in a cool place (not fridge) where it will keep for 2-3 weeks

Flavour: mild flavour and slightly spongy texture

Usage: young smooth luffas are used much like a zucchini or squash. Usage varies from soups, stews and curries to drying and frying. Very small fruits can also be eaten raw or pickled

 

SIN QUA: (Angled luffa, Silk Gourd, Chinese Okra)

Image: Department of Primary Industries- NSW

Appearance: long, slender fruit, between 15-40cm in length

Skin: 10 deep ridges running from end to end

Storage/Shelf life: while they can be stored for a time, they lose water easily so it is best to use them promptly

Look for: bright, glossy, firm fruit

Flavour: mild flavour and slightly spongy texture. The younger fruits are less fibrous and taste slightly sweeter

Usage: once hard ridges have been removed (potato peeler works a treat) they can be steamed, stir-fried, grated or added to soups or curries

 

FU QUA: (Bitter Melon, Balsam Pear, Bitter Gourd, Bitter Cucumber)- considered a medicinal fruit due to its high vitamin and mineral content

Image: Department of Primary Industries- NSW

Appearance: oblong shape

Skin: warty skin with ridges down the length of the fruit. The bumps are characteristic to variety, Chinese/Japanese cuisine tends to favour the smoother light green varieties, while the Vietnamese and Indians prefer the darker, narrower fruit with very prominent ridges and warts

Storage/Shelf life: fruit continues to ripen after harvest and should be used promptly as the more mature the fruit the more bitter it will be. Bitter Melon also emits ethylene and should not be stored with bananas, tomatoes, mango, papaya and guava

Look for: fruit that is uniform of colour (green) and 15-25cm long. As they mature they turn yellow- at this stage they can be nigh on inedible

Flavour: All parts of the bitter melon are extremely ‘bitter’

Usage: While not usually peeled, rough parts of the skin can be scraped off. The pith of the green fruit should be removed as the seeds can have a purgative effect.  The bitterness can be eased by salting the flesh and rinsing (like with eggplant). Fu Qua can be boiled, stuffed and baked, steamed, stir-fried or ever used in salads when sliced thinly. Their flavour suits strong flavoured ingredients such as black bean paste, garlic or chilli.

 

A:  They may taste very different but they are all in fact one big happy family. Each of the Asian Melons listed above belong the Cucurbitaceae family which also includes rockmelons, watermelons, muskmelons (honeydew), pumpkin, squash and cucumbers. Despite appearances, the Hairy Melon, Winter Melon and Long Melon are even more closely related, for while they may look very different they are varieties of the same species. 


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