My friend Franz recently posted a picture of an Australian Paddy Melon, a large melon that grows wild in paddocks in country Australia. They are quite tart when raw, unlike their more sedate cousin the watermelon. As kids we loved finding them – they seemed quite exotic in the fields – and we knew that the next day we would have either a delicious jam or a wonderful tart.
Paddy melons are also called Pie Melons and Jam Melons – you can see why. These were the dishes most commonly made with them. They are also known as Tsamma, and Citron Melon. Hard, seedy and bitter when raw, when cooked, the greenish flesh becomes amazingly translucent with a luscious soft texture able to absorb the flavours of the dish – lemony ginger jam, for example, or sweet apple melon pie. Surprisingly they don’t add a lot of flavour to the dish, just the lovely texture.
You used to be able to find paddy melons at country markets, but I am not sure that it is still the case.
My friend Franz and his friend Dillon never knew that you could cook with these beauties, and regretfully remembered all of the times they had bypassed them in the field, or thrown them away.
Please be careful, because the term Paddy Melon is also used for a smaller, prickly melon that is nowhere near edible. The term is used interchangeably with both melons, so be aware.
There is a rumour promulgated on the internet that Pie Melons are toxic. Not so, but do watch this smaller relative, a prickly melon, quite small. I have seen these but never cooked them. They may be harmful to health (but I am making assumptions).
Now, Pie Melon is as Country as you can get – at least in South Australia. Look out for it in April at country stalls. Sells for about $2.00 for a melon about as large as a large watermelon. You will need only 50 cents worth.
I don’t know the history of the pie melon, but I guess that it was a Great Depression food – that it, during the 1930s in the country you ate anything that didn’t make you ill! Now this isn’t a great recommendation for the Pie Melon, but it is rather nice once per year.
The melon itself does not have a lot of taste, but makes yummy pies, tart fillings and is good served with a tart cream (marscapone, sour cream, creme fraîche etc). So country! So winter! So not dinner party material.
|0.25 of a Pie Melon||juice and rind of a lemon||3 cinnamon sticks|
|sultanas||juice and rind of an orange||butter|
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Butter a deep oven dish.
Remove the rind of the Pie Melon, and dice the flesh, removing seeds. This takes some time, as it is a melon with lots of seeds.
Soak the sultanas in the orange juice, and a little Marsala, until plump.
Mix the juices, rinds, sultanas, and melon and place in the baking dish. Add the cinnamon sticks, sprinkle the lot with a reasonable amount of sugar, and dot with butter.
Bake about 40 minutes or so until tender.
Serve hot with cream, or cold on muesli for breakfast, or use with puff pastry for a pie, or thicken and use as a pie filling with a creme or meringue topping.