Thursday, July 29, 2010

DECKER MELONS


If you’ve never tasted a Decker melon, I send my condolences---I pity ME as well, sorta, for we just discovered these seemingly only-in-Indiana marvels about ten years ago---a lifetime before, and then the first ten years of our residence wasted on mere cantaloupes, juicy and sweet though they were.

There’s a SEASON to these hefty peach-hued beauties, and it lasts for a blink, in the moment between “It’s JULY!!” and “Where has this month GONE?” They appear in Farmers’ Markets and several fortunate grocery stores, their roundnesses swelling out of the big cardboard floor displays, and those same round contours making it almost impossible to reach WAY down into that waist-high container and heave one up with your free hand.

See this---that’s a quarter. The thing has the general shape and size of a basketball, with MUCH, MUCH more heft, and none of that filigree frou-frou of a true cantaloupe. The two this week weighed in at a little over fifteen pounds between them.



They are worth the grab, the wrestle, the drive-to-wherever-you-find-them. They are a magnificent fruit---great goldish smooth orbs of satiny skin covering the most-juice-per-ounce of any fruit save a home-grown tomato.

You nestle the big ball into the car, cradling it gently into the backseat---I swear, if the season lasted longer, there'd be folks buying them their own carseats. And you’ll take it into the house two-armed, careful of bumps and bruises, fearful of the loss of a single bright bite of this unusual delicacy.


Onto the counter, and you’ll have to force yourself to stow the milk and ice cream into their cool places before you lay knife to this lovely treat---the smooooth of it, the promise of the fleeting delights to come are like few other anticipations. Better place it on a big tray, for a cutting board will be flooded before you can finish your task. A long knife centered, a surprisingly-gentle yield to the blade, and a soft thunch, somewhere between a crack and a sigh, and it breaks with the force of the great golden weight within, yielding up its treasure.

The scent wafts into the kitchen, the colors gleam in any light, and if you can force yourself to cut a slice, peel it, and then eat it with a mannerly fork---you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din. A quick hack for a juicy mouthful, brimming lips curving into a smile matching the moons you’re going to carve. WHERE HAS THIS BEENN ALL YOUR LIFE?!

A gentle spoon-scrape to remove the seeds, and you’re THERE.

Deckers are decidedly hard to peel---not from toughness, as so many squashes and melons are. They have their own problems: the flesh is so very tender and yielding, it’s very difficult to separate peel from fruit without making decided finger-scallops in the delicate meat. This is Bib-Fruit, folks.

But once cut---moonsmiles or chunks (we prefer chunks, cut into a big flat rectangular Tupperware---it’s just SO EASY to flip that handy lid and extract a few with an eager fork, foraging for a moment, chewing great juicy mouthfuls (oh-so-careful not to touch another single hunk than the one you’re spearing, of course). We take a bowl to the fridge, clump out a dozen, and sit down to dessert, a break, a refreshing cool pause in the day.
And in their last days, when the slump overtakes them, and a great weep of juice has leaked into the bowl, though NOTHING is ever needed to improve their flavor, give them a suitable farewell by tossing all that's left into the blender with a tot of rum or vodka---a perfect sendoff to a perfect Summer taste.

I just cannot tell you of all the delights of a Decker Melon, that Brigadoon-Fruit with the lifespan of a bubble---they’re sweet and smooth and the most delicious of all melons that there are. I don’t know if they grow anywhere but here, and the season truly is RIGHT NOW, but I hope you get to taste one.

And not just once---for somehow I always think that the addictive enticements of Goblin Market were nothing but Decker Melons.

15 comments:

Tonja said...

This should be titled "Ode to a Decker Melon"!
I get the distinct feeling that this is one of your favorite treats! Have never been introdiced to the mighty Decker. But, I'm not much of a fan of any of them except the Honey Dew. Happy Eating!

Maggie McArthurm said...

I live but a state away. The Decker melon must be truly regional, because I'VE NEVER HEARD OF IT. I'm gonna cut into a local muskmelon tonight, but I'm sure it's no Decker.

Southern Lady said...

I'm a watermelon lover and have never heard of a Decker Melon. It looks like a cantaloupe, except bigger ... does it taste similar to a cantaloupe?

Kim Shook said...

I didn't recognize the reference to Goblin Market, so I googled it. I'm quite ignorant of poetry and pure envy anyone who can quote and reference it, my dear! What a poem! I could taste that fruit and would have been as damned as Laura had I been there.

racheld said...

Hooray!!! Another Dear Christina convert!!

Wait til Fall, when we get into Millay.

Maggie Norman said...

Brilliant food writing. I love every sentence. Move over Brillat Savarin and M.F.K. Fisher.

kouign aman said...

Sounds like it will beat out even the wondrous Sharlyn melon, which too seems to come and go in an eye-blink of time.

Of course, you could write about cardboard and make it sound tasty.

racheld said...

OH, my Dears!!! You've MADE my dark, cloudy day!!! You know how I do---if one word's good, throw in a dozen.

I've never heard of the Sharlyn---I read up on the Decker afterward and it's a PLACE---Decker, IN, with soft-sandy soil, and not a variety.

I suppose they have a radius in which they can truck these big beauties without damage, and we happen to be IN IT!! Kind of a magical circle with a few lucky participants.

Oh, Maggie, Darlin---you DO go on. Do go on.
Thank you all so much---KA, you remind me of a zany, very Southern thing Chris' uncle said once about my cooking. Very flattering of you both.

Roxanne said...

I think our Rocky Ford cantaloupes can rival your Decker cantaloupes toe to toe!

Really hot days (100+ degrees), cool nights, lots of sunshine, moderate rainfall, and a moderate rise in elevation make our Rocky Ford melons seriously good eating! Too bad you can only get them in Colorado Front Range region!

Roxanne
Denver, CO

racheld said...

Roxanne,

I didn't have a way to return the kind visit, but I hope you DO have melons to equal the Deckers! It's always good to share the joy.

I'm so glad you dropped in, and hope you'll return soon.

Anonymous said...

To:
racheld
From
drjsc.jeff@gmail.com

I was just discussing Decker melons with my mother, now 92, and the days when the horse or nule drawn wagons lined up on the street out front of the drug store so that the people of Chicago could enjoy them too.
My grandfather, Ray S. Sisson saw to all of those sales.
My Mom, Middy, got to be his secretary when she was about eleven years old - on the telephone to Chicago.
They were and maybe still are [?] a very famous treat.


Jeff Clark and
"Middy" Sisson,
Sisson's Drug Store
Decker, Indiana

Anonymous said...

Decker melons are the *best*. They are a kind of canteloupe, but that doesn't give much of a hint of the shear wonderfulness of a Decker. I didn't even like cantaloupe very much until I had my first taste - and smell - of a Decker. Any of you who live in or near Indiana really ought to try one.

Julie said...

They are absolutely the best "cantaloupe" melon there is. If you live in/near Indy, Johnny's Market on N. College has them every summer. When they arrive at the stand, you can smell the aroma from several yards away. Pick yours by that aroma; just sniff the stem end of the melon. It will taste just like it smells. Fabulous!

Anonymous said...

Deckers are NOT a variety of melon. Decker is a town and melons grown in the area are collectively called Deckers. A variety called Decker DOES NOT EXIST. I know as I am a grower!

Chris said...

there is no other canteloup on this planet as good as a decker melon and i was fortunate enough to have a few of them while i was visiting indy this summer!!! YUM!!!!