Melon Salad

Image of cookery book and dressingOne of the oldest cookery books I possess … not oldest in terms of age, oldest in that I’ve had it most of my adult life … is a hefty tome published by Reader’s Digest back in 1973, The Cookery Year. I can’t remember where I got it from or when but it travelled with me everywhere in my peripatetic youth.

Looking at it now some of the recipes seem a bit dated but there are some absolute classics in there and it was produced in that golden age when publishers employed editors, home economists and recipe testers, sadly not always the case in these cash-strapped times. Everything works.

The individual recipes aren’t attributed but the list of writers in the front includes some stellar names: Derek Cooper, Margaret Costa, Jane Grigson, Ken Lo, Katie Stewart. I don’t know who was responsible for this refreshing melon salad, but I’ve made it on and off for years and it’s a lovely start to a meal.

The original recipe calls for honeydew melon or, ‘for a special occasion’, Ogen or Charentais. I like it best with these smaller, highly perfumed fruits but I think it would also work with a good, juicy watermelon.

Whichever you choose, make sure it’s perfectly ripe as unripe melon is simply not worth the bother. The way to tell is to bring them to your nose and give them a good sniff. If they smell strongly of melon flesh, they’re ripe. If there’s a hint of turpentine, they’re over-ripe. If you can’t smell anything, put them back and eat something else.

I give the original vinaigrette below but I used the bitter-sweet, orange-scented The Colonel’s Poppy Seed Dressing from Suffolk company Scarlett and Mustard, which worked very well with the melon.

Melon Salad

Image of ingredients for melon salad


1 Charentais, Canteloupe or Ogen melon

1 smallish cucumber

6 tomatoes

Salt and black pepper

1 dessertspoon each of fresh chopped mint, chives, and parsley or chervil

For the dressing:

1-2 level tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp lemon juice or tarragon vinegar

6 tbsp light olive oil

Image of melon salad


Peel and de-seed the cucumber, cut into 1/2″ dice and place in a sieve over the sink. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 30 minutes.

Cut the melon in half and remove the seeds. Peel and dice, or if you have anything as recherché as a melon baller, scoop into small balls.

Skin and de-seed the tomatoes and cut into dice.  Rinse the cucumber under cold water and pat dry on kitchen paper.

Put all the fruits into a bowl and mix with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can either save the herbs to use as a garnish or stir them through the salad. Chill before serving in individual glass bowls or cups. 

18 thoughts on “Melon Salad

  1. Back when I was young (!) that book was my absolute bible. I ought to dig it out again, because you’re right, there are some good things in there, and I also used it to learn about techniques I hadn’t been taught at home.

      • Oh, I was luckier then. A lots of my early memories revolve round helping my mum cook. Cutting up candied fruit for the Christmas cake! Yum. Licking the bowl! Yummier.

      • Ah yes, bowl-licking was allowed. Cooking wasn’t, although I must have picked some things up through osmosis. I certainly couldn’t cook when I left home though.

  2. Thank you SO much for running this recipe on the hottest day of the year. We are enjoying it for supper with cold roast chicken. Delicious!

  3. I “discovered” watermelon & feta salad this summer and it has become a very frequent dinner guest. Well, I’m almost forced to. A watermelon, no matter how small, will produce quite a bit of salad fixins. I’m loathe to toss out food, so, once that melon is sliced, I’ll just keep making salads until it’s gone. Love that your recipe opens the door to other melon possibilities. In fact, I’ve a small sugar melon in the crisper just waiting for me. Seeing this, half will now go to you salad, while the other will be used as originally intended: as an edible dessert cup for 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream. 🙂

  4. This looks so yummy! I just saw an article on sanditas, mini watermelons that taste like cucumber with a hint of lime? I have yet to try, but sounds like it would fit in great here!

    • Thank you! Are sanditas the same as cuca-melons? We grew them last year and tbh were a bit underwhelmed, though of course growing conditions can have a big impact on taste. Would be interested to know what you think if you try them. Lx

    • Haha, me too, although some of mine date back to Roman times (not the originals, obvs), so bring on the toga. I do regularly use recipes from Eliza Acton, early Victorian, whose recipes are sometimes amazingly modern.

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