November 13, 2018
Cantaloupe: Fragrant and Flavorful

Cantaloupe: Fragrant and Flavorful

by Berkeley Wellness

Fragrant, sweet, and luscious, the melon we refer to as “cantaloupe” is the most popular melon in the United States and Canada. Technically, it is a type of muskmelon. True cantaloupe—which is closely related to muskmelon and found in Europe—has a hard surface quite unlike the soft, netted rind of our familiar fruit. The flesh inside both melons is similar. The khaki-colored skin of what we know as cantaloupe has green undertones that turn yellow or cream as the melon ripens.

Cantaloupes are thought to be Persian in origin, and evidence shows that they may have been cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans. During the Middle Ages, they spread through the Mediterranean region and were prevalent in Spain by the 15th century. Indeed it was Columbus who reputedly brought muskmelon seeds to the New World. It was not until some time after the Civil War, however, that cantaloupes became an important market crop in the United States.

Cantaloupe: Nutrition

A perfect food for anyone trying to control their weight, cantaloupes have a high water content; offer a full, rich flavor and aroma; and contain very few calories. Cantaloupes supply a good amount of vitamin B6 and potassium, and are an excellent source of vitamin C. Their major claim to fame, however, is revealed in the rich orange color of their flesh: They contain an exceptional amount of beta carotene. In fact, cantaloupes have more beta carotene than any other melon.

For a full listing of nutrients, see Cantaloupe in the National Nutrient Database.

Types of Cantaloupe

While there are many varieties of cantaloupe available for the home gardener, the cantaloupe found in the marketplace is generally the “Western shipping” type muskmelon, marketed as cantaloupe.

How to Choose the Best Cantaloupe

Learn how to gauge a cantaloupe's ripeness at the market.

How to Store Cantaloupe

You can improve the eating quality of a firm, uncut cantaloupe by leaving it at room temperature for two to four days. The fruit will not become sweeter, but it will turn softer and juicier. If during that time the cantaloupe has not reached its peak ripeness, it was picked immature and will not be worth eating. Once ripened (or cut), cantaloupe should be refrigerated and used within about two days. Enclose cut pieces in plastic bags to protect other produce in the refrigerator from the ethylene gas that the melons give off. Ripe cantaloupe is also very fragrant, and the aroma of a cut melon can penetrate other foods.

How to Use Cantaloupe

Simply cut the melon open and remove the seeds and strings in the middle cavity. It can be served in many attractive ways: cut into halves, quarters, wedges, or cubes; or the flesh can be scooped out with a melon baller.

For melon rings, cut a cantaloupe into thick, crosswise slices, scrape out the seeds, and remove the rind, if desired.

9 Ways to Serve Cantaloupe

Here are nine serving suggestions for America’s most popular melon.

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