The orange-pink flesh of the spanspek (spun-speck, called cantaloupe or rock melons elsewhere) is sweetly scented and encased in a rough skin encrusted with a lacy pattern.

Spanspek makes a delicious breakfast melon, as well as a dessert melon served with a tangy lemon ice cream. Serve chilled in thin wedges as a salad to accompany the main course, or partner with Parma ham as a starter.

The word comes from the Afrikaans “Spaanse spek”, meaning Spanish bacon. The story goes that Juana Smith, the Spanish wife of 19th-century Cape governer Harry Smith, insisted on eating melon instead of bacon for breakfast, causing her bemused Afrikaans-speaking servants to coin the word.

Spanspek, is among the most nutritious of the melon family. Spanspek are rich in Vitamins A and C, as well as in folic acid and potassium.

Look for ones that are well netted or webbed, with a yellow, background and pleasing aroma. If any stem is showing, the melon was picked prematurely and won’t taste as sweet as one allowed to ripen on the vine.

Category: South African Cuisine

Subcategory: Fruit