CASABA (or CASSAVA) Melon and FICHI D’INDIA (Prickly pears)

In the photo is a casaba (or cassava) rock melon and I have bought it for the last two years from just one stall at the Queen Victoria Market. I am not sure of its correct name, but if it is casaba it could get its name from Kasaba, Turkey. It is very sweet and juicy and in comparison to rock melon it is rather large in size. The only other place that I have seen this type of melon is in the Willanga Farmers Market in South Australia; this is not to say that it is not sold elsewhere.

Maria and her husband Giuseppe are the stall holders. They are from Calabria and they tell me that this type of melon is also found in Calabria but they do not know what this variety is called. I have never seen it anywhere in Italy, but one needs to be in the right place at the right time.

Giuseppe tells me that the rock melons he sells are grown on the Hay Plains; the grower has an Italian surname.

Cassava rock melon is not to be confused with cassava – the taro, a tuber. Apparently there is also a cassava melon which is more like a watermelon and is the size and shape of a soccer ball; this variety has  a dark green skin.

I like to eat freshly cut slices of any rock melon; I have always loved to present it with sprigs of mint – both for decoration and to munch with it.

Some people make sorbet out of rock melon puree, lemon juice and some sugar syrup (I like it with honey) – recipes for this are not difficult to find and this too can be presented with mint.

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From Giuseppe and Maria I also buy my Fichi d’India (prickly pears) which are now in season.

I particularly enjoy this late summer produce.

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