Melon Compote Recipe

This medieval dish can be served as a dessert, mixed with ice cream or yogurt. It's even vegetarian!

Spring 2016

  • Harvested unripe, this melon is steamed to enhance its more subtle flavor.
    Photo courtesy

Yield: 4-6 servings

Melons were foods of the rich in ancient times: Roman, Byzantine Greek or otherwise. In part, this was due to the labor-intensive culture required to bring them to perfection and, not surprisingly, in many of the mosaics surviving from North African archaeological sites, we see servants or farmers bringing the best melon fruit to the Big House. This evokes yet another question: are there recipes? If these melons were cooked green or at least under-ripe, how was it done? 

Make your own delicious melon compote to serve as a dessert or mixed with ice cream or yogurt. This is a medieval dish you may not have known you wanted. It's even vegetarian!

To learn about the Melon d'Algier — an inspiration for this recipe — see: The Algerian Melon: An Heirloom Luxury from Ancient Times.


• 1 cup (250 mL) water
• 4 cups (500 g) under-ripe melon – pared, seeded, and diced
• 1 cup (175 g) dried figs, chopped
• 1 cup (250 mL) honey
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 4 cups (750 g) under-ripe pears or ripe quince — pared, cored, and diced
• 1 tablespoon (15 mL) rosewater
• fresh cream or goat milk yogurt (optional)


1. Put the melon, figs, honey, cloves, cinnamon and 1 cup (250 mL) of water in a stewing pan.  Cover and cook gently over a medium-low heat just until the melons are tender (about 15 minutes).

2. Add the pears or quince, cover and continue cooking the fruit for 5 minutes or until the pears are hot.

3. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature; then add the rosewater.

4. Serve as compote at room temperature either as a side dish or as dessert with freshly beaten cream or yogurt.

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