‘Nigerian Seasonal Produce’ is a monthly column published on the last Saturday of each month. In this column, a writer explores a specific seasonal fruit, vegetable or leafy green assigned by the editors of Kitchen Butterfly and based on the Nigerian Seasonal Produce Calendar.
Our author this month is Minjiba – writer at Minjiba Cookey and in my mind, OmNomLagos. I love her writing, full of wit and heart and her photography. In this piece, she explores the Golden Melon and its unique characteristics – confident, revealing, refreshing and more.
If there ever existed a fruit that has mastered the art of skulking, I posit that the Golden Melon is – it look at how it behaves!
Until Kitchen Butterfly created the Nigerian Seasonal Produce Calendar, I would not, for the life of me, have been able to tell you when exactly the Golden Melon crept in or out of season. Most other fruit – prior to making their grand entrance – send forth envoys from their ranks to gradually gain our attention. They may be smaller and tarter at first but they bring with them the promise of juicer counterparts to come.
It is the same when these other fruits are going out of season. They begin to trail off gradually, like musical notes in the clutches of an expert tenor. You can tell that the volume is being turned down and so you can make arrangements to savour the last showing of it.
But Golden Melons have no time for niceties or public campaigns. They appear when they are ready, as if out of nowhere, and when they are done, they are done. Captain Jack Sparrow [in the fictional Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl] once said of his ship, The Black Pearl, ‘that the only people who can find it are the people who already know where it is.’
I know it seems a little incongruous to think of an innocent little fruit in the same way as a dark pirate ship but they are similar in some ways – always beyond the mist, there but not there, obvious only to those they choose. It shocked me greatly to discover that many people have never laid eyes on a Golden Melon before. Or perhaps they have but have not noticed it. It is endlessly fascinating to me how skilled these melons are at evading detection.
I remember Golden Melons from a very long time ago, when we lived in Accra. My mother would peel them, scoop out the seeds, and cut them lengthways into wedges that looked like long canoes. This may or may not have been the genesis of my OCD because I remember inspecting all the canoes and mistrusting the ones which seemed like they were a different size. Those outliers were always eaten last. We had a cook at the time, who would always slice them against the grain, turning their long pointy elegance all stout and horizontal and this bothered me. I would walk out to our back garden where those scooped out seeds had begun to sprout, beside our avocado tree and tomatoes, and watch the delicate vines creeping like silent tendrils across the soil.
Eating this fruit is a rich exercise. The fragrance always hits me first with a fist of intense apple-y fruitiness. And then when I bite in, there is a delightful translucent crunch that oozes with levity and freshness. The taste itself is subtle, even when it is sweet, and I can never decide whether it is a subtlety born of bashfulness or a calm, mature restraint. But again, what I love about Golden Melon is that you can never assume that its complexity stops at its sweetness.
If you permit this fruit, it acts like what I imagine a psychoactive drug does, taking you on any mental journey you wish to go on. Try it. Cut it into long slices, sit in a comfortable chair and let your mind wander. You will find yourself thinking of all sorts and depending on your mood you might begin to confer different qualities on each piece. Sometimes, all I get is apple, but today for instance, I thought of Midori, a Japanese melon liqueur, and how I would like to stew some Golden Melon in it and serve it dolloped over oats. Munching on another slice, I thought of fresh lemongrass, and how achingly beautiful their joint subtle elegance would be, combined, like a delicate gold necklace, almost invisible until it glistens under the spell of a shard of light. One bite made me think of cucumbers but came without the inevitable nausea and disgust that usually accompanies my biting into a cucumber. I suddenly realised why cucumbers are so lacking in confidence – it is because in the realm in which plants live, cucumbers are skilled at attracting attention, but they somehow know deep down that if the more savoury Golden Melons wanted, they could end their reign forever.
But the Golden Melon though elusive, is not jealous, and has no wish to usurp the territory of other produce so it stays in its own lane, appearing and disappearing as it pleases with minimal fuss or fanfare. The only thing it asks is that you treat it with respect; otherwise it tells all your secrets. They say that you should ideally have separate chopping boards for fruit, vegetables, and meat and I have found this to be a good rule of thumb for food safety over the years. Curiously, it was good old Golden Melon that acted as a welcome whistle-blower when this rule began to be flouted in my kitchen. I noticed that cubes of freshly chopped golden melon began tasting like the intersection between someone’s palm and chopped onions.
The offender never knew how I found out, and kept asking me to name the snitch. That day, I added golden melons to my arsenal of covert kitchen quality control measures. Being such a mild-mannered fruit has its uses – it is quiet but it keeps no secrets.
This kind of contradiction in food and indeed in people, is the very sort that excites me because it points to a complex personality that goes deeper than what meets the eye.
Thank you, Golden Melon.
Minjiba is an Author-in-the-making, fiction enthusiast, conceiver of fusion recipes, aggressive exterminator of germs, believer in retail therapy, appreciator of melancholy, lover of night, generator of ideas, observer of people, part-time agony aunt, rational hedonist, persistent brooder, cosmetic mixologist, incompetent singer, purveyor of contingencies. Would you like fries with that?
Web: Minjiba Cookey
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