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.
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.
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.
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.
Recipes with Melon
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.
Book a table at Maison Prévôt (website)
Michelin 1* restaurant
343 Avenue de Verdun
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.
Office de Tourisme Luberon Coeur de Provence (website)
Place François Tourel
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.