Kitchen Hacks

The One-Ingredient Trick to Make Any Bad Melon Much, Much Better

July  9, 2018

Melons hold so much promise. Their thick outer shell—be it green and striped, or tan and crackly like the desert floor—hides a sweet, tantalizing mystery. They bulb up on the ends of vines like basketballs swollen by the press of a foot pump.

During the summer, I can imagine no better dessert than a melon. Watermelon on the beach, honeydews in my backyard, cantaloupes sliced at a barbecue and eaten with orange smiles. Cutting into a melon is like a drumroll: You slice with anticipation, suspense. How will it look? How will it taste? A smell test, a knock on the skin, a push of the thumb into the exterior can tell you only so much about a melon’s quality. The moment of truth comes after the whole thing’s been sliced and separated.

Melon, yes? Melon, no!

If you’re lucky, a melon is sweet and juicy, so moist it runs in rivulets down your forearm, dripping off your elbow like a stalagtite. However, if you’re unlucky, when you bite into that melon it’ll taste like water: flavorless, boring, lacking in sugar. The curse of a not-good melon is a bad one.

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What is one to do with a bad melon?

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Top Comment:
“But yeah, getting a really sweet melon is difficult, so thanks for the salt trick. ”
— FS

Sure, you could toss it. Shove your guilt down your throat faster than a competitive hot dog eater and just put the whole thing in the garbage. Or you could muscle through a bad experience, numb your taste buds and wolf down what’s left of your horrible melon.

Or? Reach for a condiment. There’s actually a way to make a bad melons taste, well, better. And it’s all thanks to one ingredient: salt.

Other summer sweets

Hear me out. This trick comes to me from my grandfather, who grew cantaloupes in his backyard. Every so often he’d get unlucky and harvest a melon that just wasn’t cutting it. Rather than throw the melon out (this from the man who could make a single paper towel sheet last hours), he'd reach into a tiny table side salt cellar and pinch out a bit. He'd rub some salt across his slice of melon with his forefinger.

Initially, I was doubtful, but after trying it out, I saw that he was onto something. The salt brings out what little flavor a bad melon has and compensates for any lack of sweetness. It works, truly—trust me.

Since, I've introduced this idea to the office, and it turns out there are even other ways to gussy up an otherwise drab melon. Some swear by a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. This complements the inherent anti-flavor going on and provides a kick where there wasn’t one before. Others swear by Tajín, a spicy, lime-y seasoning that hails from Mexico. One editor mentioned herbs like mint. Three suggestions I’ll be turning to in the near future (although I hope I don’t have to!).

All this to say that a bad, boring, bland-tasting melon isn’t the end of things. And it most definitely shouldn’t be destined for the trash. Give one of the above suggestions a shot, and you won't regret it.

What do you do to save a bad melon? Let us know in the comments below.

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Debbi July 19, 2022
My Cantaloupe is under ripe, and tasteless. Im so disappointed in them overall, this year. That being said, I have to be very careful with salt. I was hoping to get some great ideas, but guess everyone is using salt. Guess I will try the lime juice, honey, (don't have any tajin) and perhaps pepper.
Lisa L. August 9, 2020
I cut my canteloupe into chunks and sprinkle chopped fresh basil over it. It's delicious and even more healthy!
Angela E. April 28, 2020
Wish I saw this yesterday. I tossed it all ☹️
stgagnon July 12, 2018
Black pepper on cantaloupe. A habit of my Georgia-raised aunt. Delish.
Richard J. July 12, 2018
Good melon or bad melon, I'm ALWAYS going to put salt on it!
Susanna July 12, 2018
Try some smoked paprika on a ‘lope alongside the pitch of salt.
Valerio F. July 12, 2018
Oh, love this!
ReneP. July 12, 2018
I grew up putting salt on my melons, well, all except watermelon, I like that plain. I was taught to eat cantaloupes and other melons with salt by my mother and probably her mother, my grandma too, as far back as I can remember. I forget that other people don't do this. It always surprises me when eating melon around someone other than family, and they give me a funny look for putting salt on melons, and I just ask, "Doesn't everyone put salt on their cantaloupe?"

This year's cantaloupes aren't all that sweet, and the texture is weird, so definitely, pass the salt!
FS July 11, 2018
Do melons ripen off the vine? I've heard and read conflicting opinions, maybe somebody on this board has the definitive answer.
sheli July 11, 2018
The canteloupes this year have been tastless (so far). My Dad's fix is to cut it up and drizzle some honey on top. It doesn't make it great, but does bring out it's natural flavor and sweetness a bit - no, you don't taste 'honey' unless you use too much and douse it in it.
Susan July 9, 2018
Salt, lime, and Tajin. Mexicans have been doing this for a long while. They mix in jicama and cucumber sometimes too. Nicely written!
Valerio F. July 12, 2018
For sure. Delish!
Ttrockwood July 9, 2018
I am alllll about a tiny pinch of flakey salt on my melons! Especially if they are ripe and sweet.
I have had terrible luck with cantaloupe this year but have finally found some good enough watermelons.
BerryBaby July 9, 2018
A drizzle of honey or agave.
Valerio F. July 12, 2018
Hmm, honey's not a bad idea either!
Sophie C. July 9, 2018
I won't eat honeydew unless I squeeze some lime on it first! It's a game changer, I promise.
Valerio F. July 9, 2018
I've noticed!
Julia July 9, 2018
I grew up knowing this. In fact some of my relatives used the salt whether the melon was good or not. I do agree a little salt improves a poor melon. However, I never understood my grandmother putting black pepper on cantaloupe.
Valerio F. July 9, 2018
Black pepper, huh? I've got to try that one out...
Karen C. July 12, 2018
It’s good. My (Indiana) family always put salt and pepper.
Sandra C. June 6, 2020
Yes well personally I don't put nothing g on my canLope but my dad always put salt and pepper on his but I've got to try some salt or something this cNalope I just bought today is blahhhh
FS July 9, 2018
Fine, I'll try the salt. Since I live in the country I have no guilt about throwing out those substandard melons ... throw them into the backyard, that is. Where all kinds of wild animals eat even the most sour, watery melon down to the tough skin.
But yeah, getting a really sweet melon is difficult, so thanks for the salt trick.
Valerio F. July 9, 2018
Composting on the go!
FS July 11, 2018
Win win! :)