Cantaloupe

The aroma and enticing sweetness of a freshly-cut cantaloupe is impossible to resist. They’re 95% water and only 5% natural sugars, which also makes them a healthy choice.
 

Cantaloupes are trailing vine plants related to watermelonsquash and cucumbers. The familiar varieties seen in American produce sections are not true cantaloupes – they’re a species of muskmelon.

History

The netted melons many of us enjoy today were first grown and marketed in 1881 by the Burpee Company. They were called “Netted Gems.”

Varieties

Ripe melons do not travel well and have a shelf life of about two weeks after harvesting. The majority of cantaloupes in the U.S. market come from California, Texas, and Arizona, during peak summer months. Imports from Central and South America are not as sweet but are available year-round.

The true cantaloupe – Cantaloupensis – grows in Europe. It is not a “netted” melon.

Buying Tips

• Once a melon is removed from the vine, it will not become sweeter. Often, cantaloupes are picked before they are ripe enough to enjoy. Look for netted skin that is cream to gold in color. Avoid green skin. The melon should be covered in the familiar netting with no bald spots.

• Good melons may have lighter surface areas from lying on the ground but avoid those that are lopsided.

• If a portion of the stem is still attached, it is unripe. The stem end should be lightly indented. At the opposite – or bloom – end the fresh scent of melon is noticeable (unless the fruit is chilled).

• With the exception of a small area around the bloom end, a melon should be firm. Soft spots are sometimes difficult to detect by sight; use fingers to search for any signs of over-aging.

• Perfectly ripened cantaloupes will be juicy.

Storage Tips

To “ripen” a cantaloupe, leave at room temperature for a couple of days. Place in a closed paper bag if desired. Check daily for signs of mold, especially at the stem and bloom ends.

After cutting, place in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Melons emit an ethylene gas, which should be contained.

Usage Tips

• Always wash the surface of a melon before slicing open.

• Cantaloupes can be eaten in sections with the rind attached.

• Cube and place on a skewer with other fruits.

Substitution Tips

Honeydew melons are similar in taste.
 

Try one of our favorite cantaloupe recipes:
Melon Balls with Port

by BigOven editorial team
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