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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Likbez: Melon Season

Moscow is now flooded with delicious watermelons and cantaloupes -- but it pays to choose wisely. Here's how.

What to Buy

Most sellers will offer one of three varieties of watermelon: Kholodok, Astrakhan and Podarok Solntsa. Kholodok is the most popular variety sold in Russia. It is green with a weight of about 4 kilograms and a delicate, sweet taste. Astrakhan is another green variety, with an average weight of 5.5 kilograms. It has a very dense texture and a rich, sweet taste. Podarok Solntsa, or "Gift of the Sun," is more rare. It is fast growing, with an average weight of 3.5 kilograms. Don't be fooled by its yellow skin; its flesh is a rich red color and it has an exceptionally sweet taste.

Cantaloupes are also readily available. The Torpedo and Kolkhoznitsa are two popular varieties. The Kolkhoznitsa has a smooth, yellow skin and dense, white flesh; it weighs about 1 kilogram. The Torpedo is larger, but just as sweet. It has an elongated appearance and grows to about 4 kilograms.

Where to Buy

You can buy a watermelon or cantaloupe from one of the 850 seasonal stands around the capital. The stands are certified by local prefects and therefore are subject to regulations enforced by city health authorities. Watermelons cannot be placed on the ground, they cannot be cut open for taste-testing, and vendors are prohibited from using postal, medical or household scales to weigh them. You may request to be shown a certificate from the city health authorities.

Watermelons can also be purchased in stores. But if you pick a bad one, sidewalk vendors, unlike supermarkets, will sometimes take it back and give you another one free of charge. Watermelon stands in the city will be open until Nov. 1.

How to Choose a Good Melon

A vender will often choose a watermelon for you, and you may inspect it. Heavier ones tend to be better and riper. Knock on the watermelon and listen for a hollow, resonating sound; this is generally a good sign it is ripe. The bit of vine on the watermelon should be dried-up, and its green coloring should be bright. While a dark-orange patch on the skin of a watermelon is nothing to worry about, the skin of a cantaloupe should have a uniform color. Dark patches often mean a slightly bitter taste.