Keith Van SickleLocal Food ProducersTaste

Provence has the Best Melon in the World

There are lots of different melons, from the ubiquitous cantaloupe to the fabulously expensive Yubari King. And the best of them all comes from a small town in Provence called Cavaillon.

Melon de Cavaillon has a history that goes back to the days of the Avignon Papacy. The popes needed good melons to eat, so seeds were brought from Italy to Provence, and the magic began.

The melon de Cavaillon (technically the Charentais) remained a local secret until the 19th century, when the expanding railroad system allowed them to be quickly shipped to Paris. The Parisians went wild, and the melon de Cavaillon became the most popular melon in France.

Cavaillon Melon

©Luberon Coeur de Provence

A Fourth Musketeer?

One particular fan was Alexandre Dumas, the celebrated author of The Three Musketeers. In 1864, the newly-christened library of Cavaillon solicited books from authors throughout France to fill its shelves. Dumas agreed to send hundreds of his books and manuscripts, but on one condition: the city had to send him 12 melons a year for life.

What makes the melon de Cavaillon so good? It is dense, sweet and fragrant, so fragrant that it’s one of the first things you smell in a Provençal market. And it is delicious no matter how you eat it—with yoghurt for breakfast, with prosciutto for lunch, or cut in half and filled with sweet Beaumes de Venise wine for dessert.

Cavaillon Melon

©Luberon Coeur de Provence

The outside of the melon is greenish-gold, with dark green stripes. Local lore has it that a ripe melon has 10 stripes, with 9 stripes meaning it is not yet ripe and 11 meaning it’s overripe. The inside is vivid orange…and irresistible.

Cavaillon Loves its Melons!

Cavaillon treats its melons with reverence. The town’s top restaurant, Prévôt, offers a special melon menu where every dish includes the famous fruit. In addition, the melon has its own festival in July, the Féria du Melon, which culminates in the running of 100 white Camargue horses through town. And the official Brotherhood of the Knights of the Melon (Confrérie des Chevaliers de l’Ordre du Melon de Cavaillon) ensures top quality through a rigorous testing and evaluation process.

Melons of Cavaillon Tastes of Provence Cavaillon

You know a town is crazy about something when they erect a statue in its honor, and that’s exactly what Cavaillon has done. It’s hard to miss their 9-ton statue of a giant melon de Cavaillon, the best melon in the world.

Provence Best Melon Cavaillon

©Keith Van Sickle

Recipes with Melon

Cold Melon Soup Starter
This is one of my preferred recipes: it's very simple and easy to make but incredibly good and all your guests will enjoy it so much. Now...as the main ingredient is melon you should choose a really good one as that will make the difference. You might be tempted to add something, well...I did in the beginning, then I just reduced the ingredients at the minimum and that's simply perfect.
Check out this recipe
Melon Soup #CookingClasses #Provence @venisenprovence
Watermelon, Melon and Feta Cheese Salad
This recipe serves 4-6 people. It is refreshing balance of sweet and salty. Serve alongside some barbequed meat or fish for an easy summer dinner.
Check out this recipe
Summer Salad Watermelon Feta
Calissons d'Aix
A truly enjoyable treat to make and connect with bakers long ago. Patience will be your reward if you can let them sit overnight to set. And while this is a traditional recipe, it is by no means easy to master. So even if it doesn’t look perfect, it will taste just as delicious. Served alongside afternoon tea or at the end of a delicious evening meal, these sweet delicate Calissons will be a welcome addition to your baking repertoire.
Check out this recipe
Calisson d'Aix Recipe

While you are in Cavillion

Try the Via Ferrata de Cavaillon is accessible on foot, a 20-minute walk from the tourist office. According to Aixcentic, it is the only one in Europe that is so easy to reach. It is possible to utilize the Via Ferrata on your own. However, it is highly recommended that you hire a guide for your first visit. The Tourism Office website has a list of qualified local guides.

Via Ferrata Cavaillon

Book a table at Maison Prévôt (website)
Michelin 1* restaurant
343 Avenue de Verdun
84300 Cavaillon
Reservations required – Telephone +33 (0)4 90 71 32 43
Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner
Owner M. Prévôt is not only a fabulous chef; he loves melons! Try the signature burger and house liqueur – Mélanis.

Prevot Cavaillon Cooking Classes Provence

Tourist Office:
Office de Tourisme Luberon Coeur de Provence (website)
Place François Tourel
84300 Cavaillon


This article is based on content that Keith is collecting for his third book, “An Insiders Guide to Provence,” with a publication date of December 2021. Click here to pre-order the book.

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Keith Van Sickle

Keith Van Sickle

Keith and Val Van Sickle made their first trip to Provence decades ago, and it was love at first sight. After that, they came back every year until 2008, when they began a part-time life there, splitting their time between Provence and California.

Over the years, they’ve travelled all over Provence, seeing sights both well-known and obscure. Their French friends have introduced them to favourite restaurants and wineries and picnic spots and taught them funny local expressions (not all for polite company).

Keith now shares this local knowledge in his new book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence. Packed with the Van Sickles’ favourite things to see and do, it’s a must-have for anyone travelling to this glorious corner of France.

Keith previously published two books about the couple's experiences in Provence. One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence, and Are We French Yet?, both are available from Amazon.

You can see all of Keith’s blog posts at Life in Provence.

2 Comments

  1. blank
    Jacqueline
    December 2, 2021 at 4:34 am — Reply

    Les melons de Cavaillon spoiled us forever. Any and every melon since is virtually tasteless. We long for finding a melon that even approaches their incredible taste We also found many with stickers that guaranteed a certain percentage of sweetness ! I’ve always wondered how they were able to do that !

    • blank
      December 2, 2021 at 6:24 pm — Reply

      Thanks for reading that article, and we agree the Cavaillon melon is one of our favourites.

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