The Cantaloupe is defined by two elements: its roughly netted stone and green colored skin and its aromatic orange-coral colored flesh. When perfectly ripe, the flesh is juicy, unctuous and sweet. The Cantaloupe will feel heavy versus hollow, a weightiness which is an indicator of its water content. The ripe fruit releases its trademark floral musky aroma. It should yield just slightly to finger pressure at its blossom end, which is opposite of its scarred end, where it was removed from the stem. Like other melons, the Cantaloupe's flesh bears a central seed cavity. The Cantaloupe is unique to other melons in both fragrance and its flesh's texture. Most melons simply do not have the same dense and sticky flesh that a cantaloupe does.
Cantaloupes are available year-round.
While there are dozens of cultivars of Cantaloupe, there are two specific varieties recognized: the true Cantaloupe, botanically known as Cucumis melo cantalupensis, and the North American cantaloupe, Cucumis melo reticulatus. Both varieties are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, the netted variety referred to in America as a Cantaloupe is in actuality botanically speaking a muskmelon. True Cantaloupes have little or no netting and are not grown commercially outside of Europe.
Cantaloupe is an excellent source of beta-carotene, folic acid, potassium, vitamin C and dietary fiber.
The Cantaloupe can be used in fresh or raw preparations, both sweet and savory. It is not found to be suited well for cooking. Fresh Cantaloupe can be used as a breakfast fruit and as a salad ingredient. It makes a perfect element in cold or fresh desserts. It also can be used as an ingredient in drinks. Cantaloupe pairs well with feta and goat cheeses, almonds and hazelnuts, mint, citrus and cured pork. Cantaloupe's flavor is unique to all other melon varieties, making substitutes somewhat incomparable. To store, keep unripe Cantaloupes at room temperature. When ripe, refrigerate. Remove melon an hour before serving to bring out its best flavor. Cut Cantaloupe will keep refrigerated in a sealed container for three days.
The Cantaloupe derives its name from the Italian village of Cantalupo, where it was cultivated upon the fruit's seeds being brought there from Armenia. The original variety has had its seeds dispersed and cross-cultivated throughout Europe and the Americas. The original Cantaloupe was smaller and not quite as sweet as modern cultivars. Cantaloupes have been developed over time to achieve uniform size, improved flavor and disease resistance. This high level of consistency has contributed to the Cantaloupe becoming the most widely eaten melon variety in America today.