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Petit Gris de Rennes Melon
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The Petit Gris de Rennes melon is easily recognized by its thin dark green skin that is striped in lighter shades of green and speckled in light yellow. Its bright orange flesh is tender, fine grained and juicy, and surrounds a small round cavity filled with seeds. Small in size, this melon typically weighs only two to three pounds at maturity. The Petit Gris de Rennes melon has an aromatic perfume when ripe and offers an exceptionally sweet melon flavor akin to that of brown sugar. This melon keeps best at room temperature and will be at its peak of flavor and texture if eaten within a few days of reaching ripeness.
Petit Gris de Rennes melons are available in the early summer months.
Botanically known as Cucumis melo the Petit Gris de Rennes melon is a French variety of melon and a true cantaloupe. The majority of true cantaloupe varieties grow predominately in France today. Its name, Petit Gris is a nod to the melons exterior coloring prior to ripening and translates in French to “little grey”. One of the most sought after melons in France the Petit Gris de Rennes melon is a specialty melon and seen in the produce and culinary world as a delicacy.
The sweet flavor of the Petit Gris de Rennes melon is ideally suited for fresh, uncooked preparations. Sliced it can be added to sweet and savory salads or be served as an accompaniment on meat and cheese platters. Puree of Petit Gris de Rennes melon can be used to enhance the flavor of ice creams and sorbets, cocktails and smoothies or custards and tart fillings. The Petit Gris de Rennes melon can be used as a substitute in recipes where traditional cantaloupe is called for. Its sweet melon flavor pairs well with citrus juice, arugula, basil, mint, feta and goat cheeses, cream, vinegar, port and cured pork. Cut melon will keep in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic for up to three days.
In Cesson-Sévigné France the Rescan family has been growing the Petit Gris de Rennes for over 75 years now. Marie-Thérèse Rescan also resides as president of the Syndicate of Producers of Petit Gris de Rennes, a group of preservationists in France who have perfected growing methods for this delicate melon.
Native to France, the Petit Gris de Rennes melon was first discovered growing in the garden of the Bishop of Rennes in the early 1600’s. Growing the delicate Petit Gris de Rennes melon can be a labor intensive process, a fact which deters many commercial growers. The melons grow best in hot houses and polyester tunnels though they can be found growing in some home gardens as well. The expert growers of the Syndicate of Producers of Petit Gris de Rennes recommend grafting the Petit Gris de Rennes onto a sturdy squash rootstock, a process which aids in the melons resistance to Fasarium wilt. Additionally, they recommend growing the melons off the ground in an espalier fashion to prevent the fruits from developing bruises and cracks. Once the blossom end of the melon is soft it should be cut from its vine and left to sit at room temperature until it is aromatic. This specific variety of melon is prone to splitting particularly if left to sit too long after reaching ripeness.