A letter dated 30 July, 1480 by the devoted farm manager Antonius Albrici tells us how melons were already appreciated at court: nine melons, the first fruits from the melinara at the court of Dosso dell’Inferno, were promised to the Marquis Federico I Gonzaga and his wife Margaret of Bavaria.
In the Church of Santa Croce in Sermide , there is a fresco dating back to the 1500s depicting a melon: the condition of the local clay soil and climate have always been ideal for the cultivation of this fruit, and today it is classified under protected geographical indication . The sensory characteristics of the melone mantovano (cucumis melo) recall those of the land, the so-called olfactory stamp includes aromas of mushroom, watermelon flesh, thyme, lime, courgette... The flesh is juicy and sweet, the colour ranges from yellow-orange to salmon pink as it contains high amounts of beta-carotene (provitamin and antioxidant) and vitamin C. The melon is mostly composed of water. It is perfect, therefore, for replenishing fluids, but this also means it is difficult to digest. Here is the solution: “you need to eat it with pepper and salt, and drink half a glass of Madeira or, even better, Marsala with it”. Alexander Dumas, Il grande dizionario di cucina.
melonaria a packed calendar of meetings and festivals, with food based around melon that includes the main local producing regions of the fruit.
Like pumpkins, melons contain many seeds. We can try and deseed them, but do we know how to plant the seeds? As with all things, you have to know your way around them! The point should be facing down. To find out which ones are goods, just let them germinate by putting them in warm water for two to three days.
MACIGNO A muskmelon with lines marking the slices, it has green skin which verges towards yellow when ripe and orange flesh. It is both a resistant and durable fruit
HARPER American honeydew melon with yellow skin without lines. It has orange flesh and is very sweet. Once constituted more than 50% of production, it is now in decline.
Smooth melons have green skin which verges on yellow when ripe. They are smooth, with juicy soft flesh that is orange-yellow in colour. They have a good flavour and a strong smell.
Long Shelf Life Melons late summer-autumn fruits: the Dalton has an unmistakable aroma with green skin marked by lines, and is more suited to the late summer; the Giusto does not have lines and has remarkable durability.
Similar to other cucurbitaceous plants (pumpkin, courgette, watermelon and cucumbers), the melon plant has a creeping or climbing stem, needs a lot of sunlight and space: each melon needs about two square metres. The plant is vigorous and the creeping stem is also several metres long.
Rice and melon, both typical of the Oltrepò mantovano, come together in this recipe. They are distant from each other, but united by a harmonic element: water. Rice grows in it, and it is the main component of melon. A harmony of contrasts, flavour and sweetness can be found in this dish.
INGREDIENTS FOR 4 PEOPLE • 320 GR rice • 200 GR leeks • 20 GR extra virgin olive oil • 1 glass of dry white wine • 1,5 L vegetable stock • 300 GR melon flesh • 4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese • 20 GR fresh cream • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley • salt and white pepper, to serve
Wash the leeks, remove the green part and chop the white part. Fry the leek in oil, add a ladle of water and cook until the leeks are soft. Add the rice, toast it, and then add the wine. Let it evaporate, and then cook by adding boiling stock to the pan. Add half of the chopped melon to the risotto a few minutes before taking it off the heat. Stir in the Parmesan, cream and pepper and finish off with parsley and pieces of melon.