Friday, September 3, 2021

Bloom where you're planted (or randomly scattered)

Mother Nature works in strange ways, always asserting her will; sometimes against mine. Most times we work in tandem: She providing the her life-giving and nurturing force and me providing the sweat and tears of bringing my garden produce to fruition. 

Somehow a single viable seed made its way from our compost bin into our strawberry bed. I suspect it was in the humus Ed spread over the raised bed in the spring of 2020. There it lay for more than a year, before deciding to break out of its seed coat and put down a slender root and then a shoot, which turned into a vine and leaves. Since I had nothing to do with the appearance of this sprawling vine, I didn’t know what fruit this mysterious vine would produce. 

In June, large yellow flowers appeared and our trusty honey bees took it from there, transferring pollen from the male flowers to the stigma of the female ones. Baby melons of some sort began to grow, and grow, and grow. They looked like cantaloupe; they smelled like cantaloupe. Last week, I harvested the first of three melons. 

I kept my expectations low as I sliced it open. Yep, it was a cantaloupe, alright. Its deep orange flesh tasted better than anything we’ve ever bought at Kroger, or even at a farmers’ market. I immediately became a proud cantaloupe mom, showing off this gorgeous thing that came out of my garden. (I had to be reminded that I had nothing to do with this amazing garden offspring.)

We ate it for breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner. I bragged about it to my kids. 

Mary (who doesn’t even like cantaloupe) sent me a link to a New York Times recipe for No-Bake Melon Cheesecake Bars. Sounded weird, but I happened to have graham crackers leftover from a s’more campfire and a bar of cream cheese and two packets of gelatin, which I keep on hand for Swedish Creams. I was in business — and 20 minutes later — a square pan of cantaloupe-colored cheesecake was chilling in the fridge. 

I’m pleased to report: it was delicious. Ed says its "rich, but not too sweet -- a great summer dessert." I had it for dinner, and the next day for breakfast and lunch. 

Ed saved some seeds from our mystery melon and I’m planning to grow cantaloupes next season and add this dessert to our summer must-haves. 


No-Bake Melon Cheesecake Bars

Adapted only slightly from The New York Times. Recipe by Eric Kim. Yield: 16 bars. Time: 20 minutes, plus 6 hours for chilling.


  • 7 ounces/269 grams graham crackers (about 14 whole crackers)
  • ½ cup/115 grams unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)


  • 2 (1/4-ounce/7-gram) packets powdered gelatin (about 5 teaspoons)
  • 1 ¼ pounds/566 grams peeled cantaloupe, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 (8-ounce/226-gram) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • ½ cup/120 milliliters heavy whipping cream
  •  Honey, for drizzling (optional)


  1. Prepare the crust: Place the graham crackers in a resealable plastic bag. Close the bag and, using a rolling pin, heavy can or other blunt object, crush the graham crackers into a coarse rubble. To the bag, add the melted butter, sugar and salt, and mix thoroughly.
  1. Transfer the crumbs to an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan and press into the bottom of the pan with your hands, forming a thick, sturdy base. Place in the freezer to set while you make the filling.
  1. Make the filling: In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together 1/4 cup cold tap water and the gelatin. Let sit to bloom. Meanwhile, use a blender to purée the cantaloupe, cream cheese, sugar and salt until smooth.
  1. Heat the cream in a small saucepan on the stovetop over medium heat until simmering at the edges or in a small bowl in the microwave until hot to the touch, 45 to 60 seconds on high. Add the bloomed gelatin to the hot cream and stir vigorously until smooth. Transfer the cream to the blender and blend with the cantaloupe until smooth.
  1. Take the pan out of the freezer and pour the filling over the graham cracker crust. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours or up to overnight. Cut into bars and serve, drizzled with honey, if you like.