Portuguese melon

Fatia de Melão-2

One of the pleasures of the Portuguese Summer is eating melon. But melons are like lottery tickets. You can win the grand prize, a perfectly ripe melon bursting with sweetness, or strike out and get a tasteless specimen. There’s a coloquial expression that reflects this uncertainty. We say “que melão,”  which means “what a melon,” when we suffer a minor disappointment.

Melon sellers have some curious idiosyncrasies. They like to boast that their melons come from Almeirim, a region that is famous for its melon but has a small production volume.  They also take pride in being able to pick a ripe melon, even though their track record is often spotty.

Restaurant waiters talk about melon with great diplomacy. When they say: “The melon is usually great but I didn’t try it today,” it means that the melon is a dud.

There are restaurants that always serve good melon. No one seems to know how they do it. Perhaps they buy many melons and throw away the bad ones.

According to an old proverb, “por cima de melão, vinho de tostão,” which means “after melon, drink wine that costs a penny.” Since a penny was a lot of money in old times, the proverb recommends drinking good wine after eating melon.

So, here’s our advice. Ask a melon seller to pick a ripe melon from Almeirim for you. If the melon is lousy, just say “que melão” and move on. If the melon is great, celebrate with a great bottle of wine!

8 thoughts on “Portuguese melon

  1. Porque vocês não escrevem em português. Seria um prazer para um leitor italiano ler articulos sobre Portugal em português. Porém parabens!!

    1. Vivemos nos Estados Unidos e começamos o blog para partilhar Portugal com os nossos amigos, por isso escrevemos em inglês. Mas o seu comentário fez-nos pensar sobre uma versão Portuguesa. Obrigado!

  2. There are different kinds of melon. The ones with the green peel (which are known as the “frog skin melon’, because of the colour and rough touch of the peel) are usually the best, the most tasty and sweet and they usually last long (some people can keep them from Summer till Christmas) – so, they are usually a safer choice. But it is as you say: until you open it, it’s always a lottery ticket. I know people that use some tricks to chose the best melons and they rarely fail it. For instance: they hold the melon with a hand and knock it with the other hand open and slightly curved, like a tiny slap – the sound tells if the melon is more or less hollow (if it is too hollow, is not so good and, in that case, people like to apply a popular expression: “this melon is good as a jewelry box…”, because of all the free space inside; other trick: pressing softly the butt of the melon with a finger (usually the thumb) helps to tell if the fruit is more or less mature; and some people can measure the sweetness of the mellon just by smelling it. When a melon is not sweet or almost tasteless, it’s common to compare it to a cucumber… which is not good. But when it is good, it is indeed one of the best summer fruits that you can try! You can also combine the sweet melon with other foods. One popular dish (that you can eat as a starter or a kind of small meal) is “melão com presunto”, which mixes the melon with delicate slices of salty ham. It’s a very simple but absolutely amazing experience… and if you have a fresh white or rose portuguese wine by your side, well, it all just gets better… 🙂

  3. This is so true!!! Whenever you eat melon in Portugal, the norm is to discuss its merits. People will say things like ‘well, the weather this year wasn’t really good for melons’, ‘it rained too early /too late in the year’. I have very fond memories of eating sardines with my family in my parents’ back garden (quintal). At the end of the meal my mother served the melon, and my father took the first slice, as we all waited for his verdict. If he said ‘não é mau…’ (not bad..) it meant that the melon was very good. If he said ‘come-se’ (it is edible) it was just ok. But if he said ‘Categoria!’ , then we knew that we were in for a treat.

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