Cantaloupe season is coming up in the Midwest. If the squash bugs and borers don’t kill our plants, we hope to have a great harvest this year. Below is a little information about cantaloupe I found interesting and wanted to share.
What is cantaloupe?
Sometimes referred as a rock melon, because of its rind is a rough, rock-like texture and a pale tan color is one of the less-sweet varieties in the melon family. Cantaloupe is a popular breakfast side dish because of its affordability, somewhat sweetness and its remarkable health benefits. Cantaloupe is normally eaten as a fresh fruit, as a salad, or as a dessert with ice cream or custard. Even though cantaloupe is becoming increasingly available throughout the year, its at its freshest between June and August.
How did it get to the United States?
The cantaloupe originated in India and Africa. Cantaloupes were originally cultivated by the Egyptians and later the Greeks and Romans. Cantaloupes were first introduced to North America by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1494. The W. Atlee Burpee Company developed and introduced the “Netted Gem” in 1881 from varieties then growing in North America.1
How to pick a ripe cantaloupe:
Picking out a ripe, tasty cantaloupe is rather easy. Rather than knocking on the fruit, or shaking it vigorously, the easiest way to determine ripeness is simply to smell the fruit. A ripe, sweet cantaloupe will have a deep, sweet smell emanating from its rind, most especially up near where the stem was broken.2 We like to pull ours off right before it starts to get that orangish-yellowish tint to it. You will be able to tell, since it won’t be a bright green between the netting.Â If you wait as long as we do to harvest the cantaloupe, we set it on the counter for only a day and then cut into it.
Avoid cantaloupe with too many soft spots. Because the surface of a cantaloupe can contain harmful bacteria, it is always a good idea to wash a melon thoroughly before cutting and consumption. Only store the fruit for less than three days after cutting to prevent risk of Salmonella or other bacterial pathogens.1 If possible, leave the cantaloupe on your counter for a few days. It will help with it become juicer and the texture will be softer. We usually leave it out for about 3 days (in its whole state only) max. After we cut into it, we then store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (if it lasts that long).
Health Benefits: Cantaloupe Rocks!
Cantaloupe is a source of polyphenol antioxidants, chemicals known to help bolster the immune system, as well as some which help reduce the risk of heart attacks.2 Cantaloupe is rich in beta-carotene which converts into Vitamin A. One cup of cantaloupe is just 56 calories but provides 103.2% of the daily value for Vitamin A.3
Cantaloupes also are an excellent source of vitamin C.1 One cup contains 112.5% of the daily value for Vitamin C. Other sources it provides are potassium, vitamin B6, dietary fiber, folate and niacin. With all these combinations, cantaloupe is an exceptionally good fruit for supporting energy production with good carbohydrate metabolism and blood sugar stability. 3
We like to start our seedlings indoors in April and plant in our garden in June. Cantaloupe is a reliable plant that needs a very warm and sunny spot in your garden. Be sure to water regularly and feed with a liquid fertilizer (if desired). You can support these climbing plants with canes, wires, twine or nets (with the fruit supported by pantyhose) to help fend off pests and diseases. We have learned that ours grow better when its off the ground. The tall-tale clue that the cantaloupe is ready to pick is by its smell. You can also select the fruit whose rinds turn yellow between the textured “netting” pattern and the stems should separate easily from the vine.
1. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantaloupe
2. WiseGeek: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-cantaloupe.htm
3.The Worlds Healthiest Foods: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=17