Work took me far outside of my usual Long Beach, north Orange County eating territory the other day, to Mission Viejo, giving me the opportunity to wander around the Persian grocer Mission Ranch Market. As is often the case in any ethnic market in Orange County, the predominate demographic is well represented, exhibited by the conversations held in Farsi at the bakery counter and overhead throughout the aisles of the store, but English, Spanish and Vietnamese were heard too; they carry the ubiquitous bags of dried Mexican herbs and spices. Wonderfully polyglot, Mission Ranch Market is still Persian and middle eastern at its core: fresh flat breads augment the multitude of packaged choices, the crisp, blistered sheets easily measuring over four feet in length; jars of preserves include the likes of sour cherries, quince, and whole green walnuts; connoisseurs of pomegranate molasses have more than a handful of brands to choose from.
Looking for a good match-up for this Dueling Dishes post, the bulk bins caught my eye, metal scoops sticking up from mounds of dried mulberries, different kinds of almonds and walnuts, various flavors of pistachios (a tree native to Iran), roasted pumpkin seeds and something I had never seen before: melon seeds. With a scoop each of fancy melon seeds and red melon seeds, I had a 405-ready snack and the top of today's post.
The only experience I've had eating melon seeds in the past has either involved horchata, sometimes made with cantaloupe seeds instead of rice, or swallowing watermelon seeds while over-zealously munching down on a red, juicy wedge of fruit. So I can't claim any kind of authority here, other than that of the culinarily curious.
Both types of seeds were roasted and salted in their thick, fibrous hulls–which don't make for good eating–making it difficult to extract the meat from inside. The hulls easily shatter with a good bite, but unlike, say, sunflower seeds, what hid inside each fancy and red melon seed was nothing more than a whisper of meat, easily lost amongst shards from the hull. More gentle extraction–the hull carefully split, the seed slipped out–made tasting the two different varieties much easier, the mild flavor of the meat standing out on its own, not overwhelmed by the over-seasoned hulls. The flavor of both is vaguely reminiscent of pumpkin seeds, but slightly less “nutty,” for lack of a better term. Compared to each other, the fancy seeds had a stronger taste, making the red variety seem somewhat bland when tasted back-to-back. But with a smaller, harder hull, the fancy seeds proved to be the most difficult of the difficult to eat, leading me to prefer the red seeds in the end.
Melon seeds aren't likely to become a new favorite snack for me, but I'll be certain to stop in at Mission Ranch Market whenever I'm in the vicinity–it's without a doubt an ethnic market well worth visiting.
Mission Ranch Market: 23166 Los Alisos Blvd, Mission Viejo, CA; (949) 707-5879