How to Prepare and Store Melons Safely
Melons are one of the healthiest and tastiest fruits you can get at your local City Market or Farmers Market. Buying Melons in-season means you’ll get the most nutrition and the best taste, too.
Making sure your melons are fresh and safe to consume isn’t necessarily intuitive, however. Fortunately, the good folks at MSU offer us some tips on how to choose, consume, and store your melons.
It begins where the melons grow. Most melons are grown on the ground. The ground is dirty, but the rind protects the inside of the melon. The problem is that germs like E-coli, Listeria or Salmonella can sometimes hang out on the rind. The bacteria may be there, or it may not be – we don’t know, but because scientists learn from previous mistakes, we do know that some melons have E-coli hovering around the outside of the melon. In most cases, the E-coli germs don’t do too much to the rind of the melon. It’s the cutting of the melon that can cause the problem. If you don’t properly wash the melon before you cut it, you might introduce E-coli to the inside of the melon. The bacteria will attach onto the knife blade from the surface of the dirty melon and travel through the melon, once the cuts are made, it contaminates every slice. Once there, the germs find enough nutrients to grow on, all they need is the proper temperature and time to grow.
Letting the melon slices sit on the table at your backyard BBQ, or in the kitchen waiting to be served gives them enough time in the Temperature Danger Zone (41 degrees Fahrenheit to 135 degrees Fahrenheit; 5 degrees Celsius to 57.2 degrees Celsius) and the germs start to reproduce. Since it is very rare that anyone cooks melon, the bacteria will be consumed when the melon is eaten.
So how should I keep cut melons safe to eat?
Always wash melons and your other produce completely. This will help you remove any germs from the outside before you start cutting. Make sure that the knives and cutting boards you use are also clean. Always wash your hands before doing the cutting! Then place the cut melon in the refrigerator or an ice chest to keep it cold; this will prevent any germs that escaped the cleaning from growing too quickly.
When should I throw it out?
Keep cut melons cold. If melon pieces sit out at room temperature for longer than two hours, throw them out. If you have to wonder how long they’ve been out there, they’ve been out too long. Cantaloupes, watermelons and other melons are great, nutritious foods – but if they’re handled incorrectly, they can make you very sick!
Most produce is purchased as “raw” products. This means you should take them home and wash them, cook them or do something else with them before you eat them! Follow these recommendations and enjoy the goodness of melons!