KANSHAworkshop: All about MELONS

Summer UPDATE:

Nothing Goes to Waste in the Kansha Kitchen

KANSHA means appreciation, and one way of demonstrating kansha in the kitchen and at table is to avoid waste. Using food fully means re-thinking your kitchen habits, focusing special attention on what could -- and should -- be used... And, considering what might be saved, rather than discarded. After you have enjoyed juicy chunks of chilled watermelon, DON'T DISCARD the rinds!!!!

Pickle them, instead.


Good to the Last Drop...

Melon Juice!

In Japan, fresh fruit is often a gift item, especially melons that can be exceedingly expensive. Even in ordinary supermarkets where home cooks shop to serve their families, melons fetch a high price. The Andes melon, grown in Kumamoto Prefecture, that you see pictured immediately below was bought for 600 yen (about $7.50 at the current exchange rate) at my local supermarket in Osaka. I was one, of only 50, lucky customers to grab the day's gentei hanbai ("limited sales item"). Ordinarily, the melons go for twice that price. Not wanting to waste a single drop of the delicious, precious, juice that trickled out when I cut the melon in half, I made a refreshing aspic from it.

Click here to download the recipe for

メロン寒 Melon Kanten



Luscious, ripe melon bursting with delicious juice (left)... Not wanting to waste a single drop, I scrape the seeds into a strainer set over a bowl to collect the juice.

 Pressing the seeds (and melon meat that clings to them), I am able to release and collect 2/3 cup juice from a fairly small (about 700 grams/1 and 1/2 pounds) Andes (honeydew-sweet) melon.



Melon Varieties

In nearly every American market you can find large, oval WATERMELON, round CANTALOUPE & HONEYDEW melons. Other varieties of melon worth seeking out include: CRENSHAW (sweet, juicy, orange flesh), PERSIAN (native to Iran), MUSK, OGEN (named after a kibbutz in Israel where it was developed) and GALIA (an Israeli-developed cantaloupe-honeydew hybrid) melons.

 Japan has bred and developed many varieties of melon, including both "red" (cantaloupe cultivars) melons such as QUINCY & YUBARI and  "green" (musk melon cultivars) melons such as TAKAMI & ANDES & PRINCE melons. Japan has also become famous (infamous?) for its watermelons: square shaped ones, and jet black, smooth-skinned DENSUKE. If you have an opportunity to sample any of these, you will be in for a treat -- hopefully being treated to them by some wealthy patron of the culinary arts.

SUIKA watermelon 

水瓜


square watermelon
Most watermelons are round but some, like the one pictured above are SQUARE! Developed as an easy-to-box, novelty item, they continue to be popular gift items.

 DENSUKE watermelon 

でんすけ水瓜


Smooth ebony-skinned, ruby-fleshed watermelons from Hokkaido go for a premium price. A record-breaking $6,100 for the 17-pound one (pictured above), sold at Isetan Department Store several years ago.

PRINCE  

プリンス

Prince melon (pictured to the right), was developed by Sakata Seed Corporation in the early 1960's. It was named in honor of Akihito -- at the time, Crown Prince, (now Emperor) of Japan. In 1959, Akihito married Michiko Shoda (now Empress Michiko).

Like most consumers in Tokyo in the late 1970's, I assumed that Andes melon had originated in South America. Not so. It is the result of Japanese breeding, and its clever name is an abbreviation for anshin desu: "safe." Most melons are subject to pests but this varietal is especially resistant. Because it is less labor-intensive to grow and harvest, it comes to market at a more reasonable price than its botanical relatives, musk melons.

ANDES   アンデス 安心です anshin desu  



夕張 YUBARI

Yubari melon is an orange-fleshed, cantaloupe cultivar, named for the small town in Hokkaido where it was commercially developed.

A pair of Yubari melon were auctioned in 2008 at the Sapporo City Central Wholesale Market for the outrageous price of 2.5 million yen. Calculated at the average exchange rate for that year, each melon cost more than $10,000 !!! Japanese news coverage suggested it was a gesture (a very generous gesture!) on the part of a local business to support the community that had declared bankruptcy the previous year. Whatever the reason, those melons were ranked the third most expensive food item for that entire year. (Italian White Alba Truffle and Iranian Almas caviar were first and second, respectively, for 2008).

Most Yubari melons are priced around 6,000 yen (about US $75 at today's exchange rate) for a single, webbed orb, nestled in a tissue-filled, be-ribboned box. Many, however, boast price tags of 20,000 yen (about US $250), or more.



Dishes in the featured menu can be found in my cookbook, KANSHA: Celebrating Japan's Vegan & Vegetarian Traditions (Ten Speed Press, 2010). They are referenced here by page number. Click on the recipe titles above to download photo-illustrated documents that provide information not included in the book  -- details about ingredients, tools & techniques, menu planning and/or final presentation.

I welcome your feedback -- especially captioned photos with a brief description of your kitchen sessions when you try making the recipes above. Those interested in offering feedback, please download a set of guidelines for submitting and displaying your work.To further teaching goals, I may post some of the feedback to this site, adding my commentary.

Every 6 to 7 weeks, I will post a new lesson to this KANSHAWorkshop page
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