This year I grew my first Charentais cantaloupes. This heirloom variety hails from the Poitous-Charentes region of western France, and though diminutive boasts a superior flavor distinct from the hybrid, netted-skin varieties we are often used to. Its gray green skin hosts dark green sutures that sit slightly lower than the rest of the cantaloupe body, dividing the melon into a series of ten or so elevated segments. As the fruit matures and collects sugars within its flesh, the rind slowly loses its color, and reaches peak ripeness when the skin becomes a dull yellow. A sweet aroma, for which the melon is prized, is also an indicator that it is ready for picking.
Although wonderful eaten alone, in its homeland, the Charanteis is often enjoyed cut into wedges and wrapped in thin slices of prosciutto. The melding of sweet and salty will tease your palate, but in the end is oddly satisfying. Sadly, there is no Alabama prosciutto yet, so you'll have to settle for the Italian import (decadent I know!). And if this French snack doesn't entice you, then how about trying the Charanteis with a little port wine? Just halve, scoop out the seeds, and fill the center cavity with port, and the melon becomes a vessel for a tasty appertif or is transformed into a simple dessert. Still not convinced? Try this recipe for melon sorbet from Saveur.