Aah ... summer's delight. Cool, crisp melon. Slice off a juicy wedge. Slurp it alone, or combine it with other fresh ingredients that complement the season of sun and shine.

The perfectly ripe watermelon.

Thumping melons will leave you in the dark. Instead, come into the light and look for the following characteristics when selecting melons.

A watermelon should have smooth skin with an even pale to dark green rind that has a creamy yellow area on the underside. The shape should be symmetrical. Avoid fruit with soft ends. If you buy a cut piece, the flesh should look firm, brightly colored, and juicy. Avoid pieces with white streaks, holes, cracks, or a mealy appearance.

Cantaloupe is ripe when the blossom end gives to slight pressure. The melon should have a sweetly aromatic scent. If there is a strong smell, the melon is overripe. If you're buying cut melon, look for a deep apricot color inside -- the deeper the color, the sweeter the taste.

Honeydew melon, when ripe, should have a creamy white to pale yellow rind. If the rind has a green cast, it is unripe. The meat inside may be green, gold, orange, or pink, depending on the variety.

Pork Barbecue with Melon Salsa

Warm Melon with Herbed Ginger Glaze Pair this tropical-flavor side dish with grilled fish, pork, or poultry.

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Sorbet-Melon Parfaits Bring on the bubbly! Sweet sparkling wine such as Asti Spumante brings effervescence to this colorful dessert.

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Pork Barbecue with Melon Salsa Two kinds of melon plus fresh strawberries combine in this simple chop-and-stir salsa.

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Berry-Melon Vinaigrette Choose a ripe red-flesh watermelon to color this fresh-fruit dressing berry red.

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Pineapple-Watermelon Slush For the grown-ups in the crowd, stir a little rum or vodka into this beat-the-heat thirst quencher.

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Melon and Cream Tartlets To make paper-thin ribbons of melon, use a vegetable peeler to scrape lengthwise strips of melon.

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Chicken Salad with Cucumber and Melon If you prefer, spoon the fruit and vegetable salad atop a bed of fresh mixed greens rather than in melon halves.

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