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Cantaloupe

Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

Cantaloupes (although you might not notice the resemblance) are related to squashes, and rank somewhere between summer and winter squashes in terms of nutritiousness. They resemble summer squashes in their high water content and low calorie count. But like pumpkin or butternut squash, its orange-fleshed cousins, cantaloupe is a good source of beta-carotene, and also a good source of potassium and vitamin C.

Varieties

The melon that Americans call cantaloupe, the most popular melon in the United States, is actually a muskmelon. True cantaloupe comes from Europe and has a rough, warty surface quite unlike the netted rind of our familiar fruit. The khaki-colored skin of an American cantaloupe has green undertones that ripen to yellow or cream.

Availability

Available year round, with the peak season from June through August. California, Arizona, and Texas provide the majority of the U.S. cantaloupe crop.

Shopping

Since cantaloupes have no starch reserves to convert to sugar, they will not ripen further once they have left the vine. They're picked when they are ripe but still firm, to protect them during shipping. Invariably, some are picked too early, so it is important to know the characteristics of a ripe cantaloupe.

Unless the melon is cut, the only clue to ripeness is the condition of the rind. Cantaloupes should be slightly golden--not a dull green--under the rind's meshlike "netting," which should cover the whole rind; reject those with slick spots. The stem end should have a slight indentation (called a "full slip") if the melon was picked at the proper stage. The blossom end will be slightly soft if the melon is ready to eat and, unless the fruit is chilled, a flowery fragrance will be apparent. Cantaloupes may be football shaped or spherical, and while it's natural for the melon to be slightly bleached on one side from lying on the ground as it grew, it should not be flattened or lopsided.

If your market sells cut cantaloupes, the fruit should be perfect for immediate consumption, as it will not improve once it is cut. With cut melons, you can check the color and texture of the flesh, and usually smell the delectable fragrance of a ripe melon even through the tight plastic wrapping.

Storage

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.

Preparation

Simply cut the melon open and remove the seeds and strings. 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.

Nutrition Chart

Cantaloupe/1 cup cubes

56
Total fat (g)
0.5
Saturated fat (g)
0.1
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.2
Dietary fiber (g)
1.3
1
Carbohydrate (g)
13
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
14
Beta-carotene (mg)
3.1
Vitamin C (mg)
68
Potassium (mg)
494


Date Published: 04/20/2005
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