Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Best Melons in France, the Cavaillon Melon.

The Cavaillon Melon, with little opposition these are considered the best melons in France. 
Behind the French Menu.

Cavaillon – Cavaillon the town, and Cavaillon the melon.   Cavaillon the town, has played many roles in French history, but is far more famous, internationally, for its melons; the Melon de Cavaillon.

Cavaillon Melons in the market.
When it is a Cavaillon Melon it says so!

This is a unique melon; not just a sweet melon or a pleasant melon. The Melon de Cavaillon has a taste and fragrance that is different; you will remember your first Melon de Cavaillon when another is offered even years later.


The Cavaillon melon is nearly round, with a yellow-green skin, and dark green stripes that uniformly mark it. In season, from mid-June through September, the air in an open market where they are selling these melons can be quite heady.  Inside a ripe Cavaillon melon the flesh is sweet and orange colored; the taste is sweet but far from sugary. Its taste is truly different.

The Cavaillon Melon.
A restaurant with melon on the menu may be serving excellent fruit but if it was the Cavaillon melon you may be sure its name would be on the menu.  Equally, when the markets and supermarkets are selling the real thing every Cavaillon melon will be labeled.  All the melons of France may be very good; however, the Cavaillon melon holds one grade above excellent.  The Cavaillon melon does not lack for imitators, however, the growers claim that their land, their terroir, make a unique melon.  Their seeds grown elsewhere will  produce great melons but it will not be a Cavaillon melon. I have tried many of their imitators, some are great and tasty melons; but, I must agree the Cavaillon has something the others do not.


Slices of the Cavaillon melon.
 he Melon de Cavaillon, has a confrérie, of course, the Confrérie des Chevaliers de l'Ordre du Melon de Cavaillon, the Brotherhood and sisterhood of the Knights of the Order of the Cavaillon melon.  These brave knights work to advance the cause of the Cavaillon melon and, no less importantly, they identify the competition.  The knights defend the honor and reputation of their famous fruit; however, long before this confrérie came into being the Cavaillon melon had already attracted the attention of French gourmets and that was over 150 years ago:
    Alexandre Dumas, Père, the renowned author who includes the Count of Monte Christo and the Three Musketeers among his over 400 works was a true gourmet; he also loved Cavaillon melons.  Dumas Père loved Cavaillon melons so much that he offered the municipal library of Cavaillon a copy of every one of his published works; at that time that was over 300 separate works, in exchange for 12 Cavaillon melons a year for life.  The council accepted the offer but Dumas Père felt he had the best part of the agreement.
   Cavaillon, is a pretty town, and even without the melon is well worth a visit; even today  it has  just a little over 20,000 inhabitants. Cavaillon is situated on the edge of the Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon, the Luberon Regional Nature Park, in the département of Vaucluse in the région of Provence, Alpes du Sud.
    If you are in Provence in early July do not miss their Fête du Melon, their melon fete held on the Friday and Saturday preceding the 14th of July, Bastille Day, Le Quatorze Juillet, check the dates. 
    The town of Cavaillon has a long history and as the Romans were here maybe they brought the first melons?   Exploring the town you will find a 1st century Roman arch

Photograph by courtesy of Jaqueline Poggi.
The remains of the  1st Century Roman Arch
  Explore more and you will find the remains of a 12th century Cathedral including  a Cloister.

Photograph by courtesy of Alison Slade/Stackerknacker.           
Remains of the 12th century Cathedral.
   Look around some more and you will find a reconstructed 18th-century synagogue.
Photograph by courtesy of Shoshanah.
Reconstruction of an 18th century synagogue.
Now it is a museum.
  The reconstruction of the synagogue in Cavaillon is a now a museum, the Musée Juif Comtadin, the museum of the history of the Jews of Comtadin.
French food explained