Cantaloupe is a popular type of muskmelon. It’s a member of the cucurbit family (Cucurbitaceae) of plants, along with cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds and other melon varieties, like honeydew.
Cantaloupes grow on low vines and have a webbed outer skin that turns from green to mostly beige when ripe. In Europe, the name cantaloupe is used to refer to a slightly different melon with beige and green skin. Both have orange, sweet flesh with seeds in the center.
Cantaloupe is cultivated throughout the world, including Asia and Europe. In the U.S., California has the highest production, although they still import from Central America because consumption is high and it’s a warm-season crop.
Cantaloupes are full of fiber, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and one of the highest sources of vitamin A of any fruit. They are low in sodium, fat and cholesterol and high in manganese, which is essential for maintaining strong antioxidant defense, good vision and healthy skin, and is a known protectant against lung and mouth cancers.
cantaloupe are an excellent source of vitamin C to defend the body against infection. One cup of balled cantaloupe contains over 100 percent of the recommended daily value (DV) of vitamin C. These melons are also a source of potassium, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure and helps protect against stroke and coronary heart diseases. Cantaloupe is also high in antioxidant flavonoids, such as beta-carotene, and lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids absorbed into the retina, where scientists believe they may provide light-filtering functions to protect against age-related macular degeneration. The flavonoid cryptoxanthin shields cells and other areas of the body from free radicals, and may ultimately help inhibit colon and lung cancers.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cantaloupe has more beta- carotene than:
Cantaloupes contain fructose, so limit portion size. Like other members of the Cucurbitaceae family, cantaloupes contain lectins, which are plant proteins that may have a detrimental effect on your gut microbiome. To avoid this, peel and deseed your cantaloupes before cooking them.
Cantaloupe are a good source of folate, known as vitamin B-9. Folate is the term used when it’s naturally present in foods. Folic acid is the term used for supplements and fortified foods. Folate is well-known for preventing neural-tube birth defects like spinal bifida.
How to Buy
Buy organic cantaloupes, as they are also one of several foods often contaminated by toxic insecticides, and ranks at no. 38 in the Environmental Working Group’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce list.
When shopping for cantaloupe, look for heavy, firm fruit that is a golden beige color underneath the light-colored webbing. Ripe melons have a distinctive cantaloupe smell when held close to your nose. Avoid soft, overripe melons. If your cantaloupe isn’t quite ready yet, let it sit on the counter for up to three days to ripen.
Whole cantaloupe is frequently available year-round at most grocery stores with a set price per melon. Sliced or cubed cantaloupe is priced per pound. The melons tend to come from domestic or close-by sources when the fruit is in season in the late summer. Off-season, melons are often shipped from faraway farms. These cantaloupes are picked very green and unripe and left to ripen during the journey.
For the best-tasting fruit, buy cantaloupe in season and, whenever possible, from a local source. Late summer farmers’ markets are the ideal place to buy a fresh, great-tasting melon.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to know when cantaloupes are ready for consumption, but there are a few clues. When ripe, they’re inordinately heavy, the stem end gives just a bit when pressed with your thumb (too much and it may be overripe) and a firm knuckle rap will produce a low and rather hollow sound.
How to Store
Store a whole cantaloupe on your countertop for no longer than three days or in the fridge for up to five days. Unripe cantaloupes should be ripened on the countertop and prepared as soon as they ripen. Don’t stash a ripening cantaloupe near other fruits and veggies since the ethylene it gives off will cause the produce around it to ripen more quickly.
Before you cut the fruit open, thoroughly wash the outer skin with a clean brush under running water. Once sliced, place in a container in the fridge at a temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Prepared cantaloupe will last for up to three days in an airtight container in the fridge, but it’s best eaten as soon as possible. Excess or overripe cantaloupe can be pureed and frozen for use in smoothies and similar recipes.
How to Cook
When it’s time to eat your melon, wash the exterior well because your knife can carry harmful bacteria to the interior when cutting. Steady it on a cutting board and use a large chef’s knife to cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and pulp from the middle and slice into wedges. The peel is inedible and should be removed or discarded.
Cantaloupe is tasty when chopped up and mixed with other fruits, such as watermelon, honeydew and a few strawberries and blueberries thrown in for a colorful breakfast, brunch or snack.
- Cantaloupe smoothie. This nutritious drink is made from cantaloupe, Greek yogurt, and natural sweetener. It makes a great breakfast or snack.
- Cantaloupe salad. Combining cantaloupe with basil, vegan mozzarella, onions, red wine vinegar, and olives for a savory element.
- Cantaloupe sorbet. You only need four ingredients to make this frosty treat: cantaloupe, lemon, maple syrup, and water.
- Roasted cantaloupe. Roasting brings out the melon’s natural sweetness.