Warm weather staples like watermelon and cantaloupe may be a sweet summer memory, but as the weather cools down, other great melons make their way to grocery stores. While still grown in the summer, the 110 frost-free days that winter melons need to mature makes them perfect for fall or early winter harvest. These late bloomers include some common varieties like Honeydew, Crenshaw or Casaba, as well some lesser knowns like the Piel de Sapo, also known as the Christmas or Santa Claus melon.
The Piel de Sapo has a thick green outer rind resembling the skin of a toad, a juicy white flesh, and a taste somewhere between a honeydew and a pear. It can last on the counter for weeks, explaining the melon’s pseudonyms. Don’t wait for that enticing melon aroma to enjoy this winter treat though — it gives off little to no odor, even when ripe. A ripe Christmas melon will be heavy for its size with a firm flesh that has more yellow appearing though the green speckles.
Like other melons, the Christmas melon is low in calories and high in vitamin C and potassium, making it great for meals, snacks or desserts. Take advantage of the cooler weather to pair its delicate sweetness with some bolder flavors like the Kalamata olives and red onion in the recipe below. Despite the cold-weather name, the flavors of this melon are best when only slightly chilled. Be sure to take pre-cut melon out of the fridge a half hour before serving.
Christmas Melon Cucumber Salad
Recipe developed by Elisha Daigneault, RDN
1 large English cucumber
1 ½ cups cubed or balled Piel de Sapo melon
¼ cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
½ medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 handfuls baby arugula
Juice of ½ small lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Halve the cucumber lengthways, and slice into thin half-moons.
- Combine the cucumber with the Piel de Sapo cubes or balls, Kalamata olives and red onion in a large bowl.
- Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and gently toss.
- Divide arugula evenly among four small plates. Top each with ¼ of the cucumber melon mixture and serve.