Cavaillon melonsCavaillon thinks of itself as the world capital of melons. Its speciality is the Charentais: small, round, with blue-green striped rind, deep orange flesh and an irresistible perfume. logoClick here to book a hotel in Provence

Each year in July, Cavaillon's melon festival features all things cucurbit: melon tastings, melon markets, melon menus, a firework display and the inevitable pétanque tournament.

Formerly known as the Fête du Melon, it was recently rebranded as the Féria du Melon. As the new name suggests, it now has a markedly Spanish flavour and includes an abrivado, a procession of bulls through the streets.

Among the other attractions arelikely to be: a procession of horse-drawn carts decorated in traditional provençal style, free melon tastings, folk-dancing, pop-up bodegas (bars) and a craft market.

Local restaurants serve melon-themed menus too. The grand climax is a dramatic roussataïo, which involves a hundred white Camargue horses galloping freely through the town centre.

One leading Cavaillon chef, Jean-Jacques Prévôt, offers cookery courses at his restaurant, where - if you like the sound of such concoctions - you can learn to prepare melon beignets or hamburgers with melon and foie gras. The chef rather cheekily names his creation Le Mac Prévôt.

In the 2013 Michelin Guide, Le Prévôt was awarded a Michelin star. The restaurant had previously held a star but had lost it back in 1996.

Like many French towns, Cavaillon fiercely promotes and protects its local delicacy: in 1987 an outfit named The Knights of the Order of the Melon was set up to this effect. All melons have to pass stringent quality controls and the majority are consumed locally rather than exported.

melon deguiseLegend has it that they were introduced to the area from Italy in the 14th century by the popes, who lived in nearby Avignon, although their fame spread only along with the expansion of the French railways 500 years later.

One of the Cavaillon melon's first, biggest and most famous fans was the prolific novelist Alexandre Dumas who, asked by the town in 1864 if he would contribute some of his work to the public library, replied in impeccably courteous terms.

"Have the kindness to inform Monsieur Tourel, your honourable Mayor, that I agree on one condition: if the town and the Cavaillon authorities think highly of my books, I also love their melons and I would like, in exchange for my 300 or 400 volumes, that a bylaw be passed awarding me a life annuity of 12 Cavaillon melons a year," Dumas wrote.

A famous gourmet (his Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisineimage! was published posthumously), he was, sadly, to enjoy only 72 melons before his death in 1870.

Insider tipLocals offer this tip for spotting a ripe Charentais melon - count the stripes. They should be a deep blueish-green colour and there should be ten of them. If there are nine or eleven stripes, the melon could be tasteless or past its best.

As with other types of melon, there are several other tests you can apply. The heavier the fruit the better, as ripe melons are engorged with juice and sugar. The stalk (le pécou) should be loose and easy to pull off and the melon should be richly perfumed around the base.

Another Insider Tip: try a Cavillon melon with vin cuit, a delicious fortified spiced wine produced in the region and traditionally drunk at Christmas. It makes a great change from the usual melon and port combination.



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