There’s a running gag about honeydew on the Netflix animated series “BoJack Horseman.” In a string of jabs, the hapless melon is trodden on as “garbage fruit,” cantaloupe’s “dumb friend.”
Not without good reason. Who hasn’t bitten into a bland, watery cube of honeydew from the top of an airport fruit cup filled mostly with underripe melon?
But sinking your teeth into truly ripe, devastatingly sweet melon can be an ethereal eating experience. It’s a small but mighty pleasure that can be expanded even further by turning your next honeydew or cantaloupe into dessert. Melons aren’t often used in sweets, but they should be. Cream and sugar actually fortify what honeydew and cantaloupe already have going for them: Their flesh is creamy when ripe, where the juicy edges by the seeds are so tattered that they seem almost milky and full of fat.
Whether it’s jade-tinged honeydew dripping with cool nectar or orange cantaloupe that’s ripened to honeyed creaminess, melons are, in many parts of the world, a nexus of late-summer’s bounty.
In 1992, the South Korean snack food company Binggrae debuted a new product, Melona, a honeydew-scented ice cream bar that leaned into melon’s delicate flavor. The pastel green and rectangular treat was an instant success, eventually making its way to the United States in 1995, flooding ice cream coolers from Atlanta’s Buford Highway, where Korean businesses abounded, to the shores of Hawaii, where Melona was especially popular.
If you’ve never bitten into a Melona (often called “melon bar” colloquially), then you should head to your nearest Korean grocery store and snag a box immediately. The texture will surprise you: It’s softer than a fudge pop — less icy. Creamy and stretchy and even a little chewy, it melts gloriously, with the kind of tongue-coating slow melt that’s characteristic of the best kulfi and semifreddo. “Gelato on a stick” is how Binggrae describes it.
Most of all, it’s less sweet than many ice creams in the States, fragrant with essence of honeydew (tasting as if it has been dipped in both honey and dew).
Similarly, these cheesecake bars celebrate melon for what it is: a quietly aromatic fruit, full of juice and untapped potential. Fresh cantaloupe purées into a smooth, fluffy pulp to flavor a cheesecake base that doesn’t require baking, thanks to gelatin. For the smoothest texture and the best set, powdered gelatin first needs to be bloomed in water, turning it into a translucent jelly, before it is whisked into hot, scalded cream to dissolve completely. Cream cheese helps deliver voluptuous texture, while also lending savory balance and accentuating melon’s soft, floral flavor.
Recipe: No-Bake Melon Cheesecake Bars