I am new to making homemade ice cream. I just started to feel confident with plain vanilla, so it was time for the next step - adding fruit.

The custard recipe says it can be turned into fruit ice cream by adding 30g pureed fruit per yolk. I looked into the basket for a fruit likely to make a good puree, and settled for a honey dew melon. I made the custard base (yolks, cream and sugar with a pinch of salt), and, because I wanted more fruit taste, made 50g of melon puree per yolk and thickened it with a bit of guar gum, because I feared crystals from the rather liquid melon. I added the melon to the prepared custard, it wasn't exposed to heat.

After chilling and transferring to the freezing plate, I indulged in licking the thermometer, spoon and bowl used for the making of the ice cream. I was unpleasantly surprised at the lack of melon aroma and strong bitter taste. It was as if I was chewing the seeds of the melon, although there were none in the ice cream, I am sure I'd have seen them if they had fallen into the puree. Combined with the overbearing sweetness of unfrozen ice cream, I thought of throwing the batch out. But I froze it anyway. Frozen, there is much less bitterness (and of course much less sweetness), it tastes as if I am eating a raw gherkin. In fact, if I didn't know that there is melon in there, I probably wouldn't have recognized. It is eatable, but not especially good.

The aroma problem was solved when I ate a piece of the melon: this exemplar must have grown in a dark greenhouse. It was watery, only a hint of sugar content, only a hint of aroma. But it wasn't bitter, just tasteless.

But I am still wondering what went wrong. Does melon react with guar to create a bitter compound? Does melon react with cream to create a bitter compound (I know kiwies do, but melons?) Was there so much heat in the custard base as to cook the melon, and does cooked melon taste bitter? Would a better melon have made a difference, or would it have been bitter, sweet and aromatic at the same time? Is melon generally unsuitable for making ice cream?

  • 1
    have just had similar problems .made a honey dew melon cream sauce for a ravioli ,when heated the sauce became bitter .made the sauce again this time no heat "perfect" .left refrigerated for two days and became bitter again. tasted as if i were eating the skin of the melon .
    – user9367
    Mar 5, 2012 at 1:30
  • 1
    Thank you for the confirmation. Sounds like melons have some compound which reacts with cream, but it isn't widely known. I'll research a bit more, and stop using honey dew in combination with dairy cream
    – rumtscho
    Mar 5, 2012 at 11:35

8 Answers 8


This is about a melon-milk shake that I made previously. I don't know if it applies. Melon has a reaction when mixed with milk which causes the taste to become bitter. When freshly made it tastes okay, but when left for some time (a few hours) it gets bitter.

  • 2
    Changing this answer to the accepted one, because after some experiments mixing milk an melon puree I could reproduce the problem. The melon itself tastes normally when cut, but after some time with the milk it gets really bitter.
    – rumtscho
    Sep 9, 2013 at 9:34

It's no surprise to me that you describe the final taste as being similar to a raw gherkin, because both melons and gherkins are closely related to the cucumber.

Melons actually do have bitter notes; according to McGee, they contain "green, grassy compounds" as well as sulfur compounds, the latter being the same sort of thing you'd find in garlic.

Since melons only get sweeter on the vine, I would assume that the general blandness was caused by the melons being harvested too early and possibly sitting on the grocery store shelf for a long time.

If there was noticeable bitterness beyond what you tasted in the raw fruit, it was probably just because you got a concentrated dose of it in puree form. Overcooking it would also increase the bitterness, but you say it wasn't exposed to heat (could the custard still have been very hot when you incorporated the melon?).

There is no way it was a reaction with guar gum - it's a very common additive in melon-based drinks and desserts. It's also extremely unlikely to have been a normal reaction with the cream; I've made melon mousse and other dairy items with melon and never noticed any kind of unusual bitterness.

The only other possibility I can think of is that there may have been a problem with the cream itself. This varies quite a bit from brand to brand and region to region, but most of the time, the "cream" you buy does not just have cream in it; for example, I'm looking at a typical supermarket carton that contains cream, milk, skim milk powder, dextrose, and a bunch of E numbers, and even some sodium citrate. These creams can easily take on bitterness before they go sour. So if you were using the typical supermarket brand of heavy cream, and it was sitting in your fridge for a while, that may have been a contributing factor.

All in all, I think it was probably a very random and unfortunate combination of factors that would have been due to the specific ingredients used rather than the types of ingredients. I doubt you'd get the same results if you tried again with fresh melons, cream, and eggs.

  • 1
    I can exonerate the cream: It had carrageenan, but no fillers like what you mention. The custard before adding the melon tasted normal. I didn't taste the melon puree, only the custard with incorporated melon, so not very concentrated - and it was bitter, unlike the pure melon I ate. It was really strong bitterness, maybe as strong as black coffee (not espresso, but not American dilution either). So the mystery remains. But I am happy to know that it is unlikely to occur in the future.
    – rumtscho
    Apr 22, 2011 at 17:03
  • This is a good answer; if you didn't taste the honeydew puree before adding it, it was very likely that. Purees often taste different than the original fruit, so I would always taste before adding and possibly ruining all the other stuff. I'd also recommend trying to make a honeydew sorbet first. It will give you a good idea of what the honeydew tastes like on its own, how much sugar it needs, how acidic or bitter it is, etc.
    – paul
    Apr 26, 2011 at 3:10

I would like to answer your question based on my personal experience with honeydew melon, because I always want to prepare honeydew melon when it is available in the market. Adding sugar and water to the melon will not introduce bitterness in the mixture, however the moment I add milk (evaporated or condensed) and after mixing, the result will be a bitter mixture. So there is really a negative result combining milk and honeydew melon.


After reading all questions and answers I am still left with out an answer to my question.

I have made pineapple ice cream and papaya ice cream and to my astonishment it was so bitter! I used fresh pineapple, it came out bitter with the custard base, then I used the one from the tins and it was perfect. So I went and do a research and found out that when using fresh pineapples you should first cook it with some sugar. I have not tried it as yet.

As to the papaya I was so disappointed. The pureed papaya was not bitter, the custard was not bitter, and when I combined the fruit with the custard it was not bitter! But while in the Ice Cream maker I tasted it and could not believe what I tasted so I tasted again and it was very bitter, more than the pineapple, so maybe I have to cook the papaya with sugar first too.

I hope this info is of some use to others.

  • This was flagged as not an answer, but I think it's worth keeping: it confirms that this is a broader issue (not just melon but a couple other things, definitely from the mixing) and suggests a potential way to avoid it.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 2, 2015 at 21:40

I had the same exact problem with both melon ice creame and pineapple ice cream. I tasted the ingredients before mixing them (cold). The bitterness came after the mixture left sit in the refrigerator for a while. I suspect the fruites had a chemicals reaction to stainless stell pot I left the mixture in but not sure what caused it....

  • 1
    After reading other answers, and trying it out again, I can confirm that a melon (at least a certain kind of melon, I think it is honeydew) will react with milk to create a strong bitter taste no matter what container they are mixed in. It is chemicals in the melon causing the reaction, not in the pot (besides, SS cannot react with anything tame enough to be eaten by humans).
    – rumtscho
    Sep 9, 2013 at 9:32

Melon should be fine in ice cream, I think yours was just a bad specimen. While you say it was not as bitter fresh it still was not a tasty melon, its possible that during the puree/ice cream making process the combination of ingredients enhanced the bitterness.

Your best bet would be to try again but insure that the melon you start with is good and sweet. I have never used guar gum making ice cream before, so I don't know if you are better off leaving it out or not.


I had a similar problem with pineapple ice cream and found this: http://www.all-about-food.org/tips/faq/milk-become-bitter-kiwi.php

From this page:

Why does milk become bitter if you add kiwi?

If you combine milk, yogurt or curd with fresh kiwifruit, it will become bitter and viscous.

The reason for this unpleasant effect is due to the proteolytic enzyme actinidin of the kiwifruit. This enzyme breaks down milk proteins (casein) into smaller sub-units (peptides, amino acids), which are responsible for the bitter taste. Pineapple and papaya can also make milk taste bitter because of its proteolytic enzymes bromelain (in pineapple) and papain (in papaya).

  • Thank you, but this is not what my original problem was. The enzymes in these fruits are well known. They don't occur in melons. But I must say that I've had this problem happen another time with melons and other plants of the same family. It seems that there is a compound in some cultivars which doesn't play well with milk.
    – rumtscho
    Sep 21, 2015 at 10:29

I just made cantaloupe gelato base for the first time and had this problem too. I added a bit more sugar and some lime juice and so far it's much more edible, lol. Bitter flavors are usually basic, so maybe the acid is helping neutralize it?

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