What is a winter melon? I’m so glad you asked!
Below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about this colossal fruit, including why it’s called the winter melon.
This is such a unique type of melon. And no, the name doesn’t have to do with growing seasons.
Instead, this green fruit is like a jack of all trades. It’ll work in sweet and savory dishes and it has a pretty long shelf life.
Intrigued? Then let’s answer the question, “What is a winter melon?”
What Is a Winter Melon?
The winter melon is a member of the gourd family and shares a similar lineage to cucumber, zucchini, and pumpkin. It looks almost like an albino watermelon, with light green skin and bland white flesh.
You often find it growing in warmer climates in Asia, although they’re starting to cultivate closer to home in southern Florida.
Despite having the word “winter” in the title, this hardy melon grows in the summer. So why the name?
One theory is that this melon is famous for storing well throughout the winter.
It has a shelf life of up to 4 months, so you can enjoy a little taste of summer while there’s a blizzard outside.
Another hypothesis is that the young winter melons look like snowballs since they’re coated in soft, fluffy fuzz.
Once the melon matures, it ditches the hair and gets a shiny, waxy coating.
And when I say grow, I mean it grows. You can see these bad boys weighing up to 40 lbs.
It’s like the sumo wrestler of melons. It’s big, strong, and ready to take on any recipe.
What Does Winter Melon Taste Like?
Don’t expect the winter melon to create any flavor fireworks, this fruit’s taste is best described as bland and earthy.
It tastes a little like a standard type of cucumber but with more notes of freshly-mowed lawn.
For this reason, you often find winter melons enjoyed in cooking.
This behemoth is a staple in Asian cuisine, especially in Chinese and Indian dishes.
It’s the chameleon of the kitchen, blending seamlessly into soups, sweets, and beverages.
Where to Buy Winter Melon
The best place to find this oblong-shaped beauty is at a local market that specializes in Asian ingredients.
Some markets may have the winter melon pre-sliced and packaged for your convenience.
But this will drastically shorten its lifespan.
If you’re the type to let produce sit in your fridge for weeks on end, then a pre-cut winter melon is not for you.
Make room in your shopping cart to buy the whole fruit and take the time to slice it yourself for the freshest product.
Just be prepared for some heavy lifting.
Health Benefits of Winter Melon
Who knew this unassuming squash could be so good for you?
Winter melon is an excellent source of vitamins, including vitamin C and riboflavin.
Plus, it has a healthy dose of antioxidants, like flavonoids and carotenoids.
These compounds help make winter melon a real contender for potential health benefits.
Winter melon is low in calories but high in fiber, which increases the fullness factor and helps regulate your digestion.
How to Cook With Winter Melon
Winter melon might be one of the most versatile ingredients in Asian cuisine.
You can steam, simmer, grill, roast, or parboil this fruit, and the winter melon will take it like a champ.
You can use it in traditional Chinese dishes like winter melon soup.
It soaks up all the broth like a potato and instantly melts in your mouth when you take a bite.
Winter melon can also hold its own in a tasty stir-fry, just be careful not to overcook it, or else it will get mushy.
While winter melon works wonders in savory dishes, it’s also super delicious in sweet baked goods.
In China, this fruit is a staple ingredient for Chinese wife cake, a sweet bread pastry with a winter melon filling.
You also see these melons as a popular flavoring for Indian candies, drinks, and other confectioneries.
There are endless possibilities when it comes to winter melon, so why not take this fruit for a ride and see for yourself?
Delicious opportunities await!
How to Store Winter Melon
The winter melon is an incredibly low-maintenance fruit that you can keep for months on end if you store it in the right conditions.
First things first, find a cool and dark place with low humidity to store your winter melon.
This could be your pantry, basement, or even a cold cellar.
If you purchase pre-sliced winter melon, keep it in the crisper and consume it within a week.
But wait, there’s more! Winter melon also makes a great candidate for pickling.
Just pop it in a jar with some vinegar, salt, and sugar, and voila!
You now have pickled winter melons that will last you for months.
With the right storage techniques, you can enjoy winter melon all year round.
So go ahead and stock up on some of this behemoth fruit.
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