I look forward to ripe vegetables and fruits in the summertime. They are juicy, aromatic and sweet; much more so that those out of season. One of my favorites is cantaloupe. It tastes like an entirely different fruit when it is truly ripe.
It is not easy to find juicy and aromatic cantaloupe. The fruit must be picked when it is vine ripe–not green; hence transporting and storing cantaloupe is more tricky. Cantaloupe doesn’t benefit from controlled atmosphere storage–such as apples–and can’t be stored for long periods of time. When I find a farmer’s market or grocer with ripe cantaloupe, I’ll tend to go back year after year.
How can you tell when a cantaloupe is ripe?
Some fruits and vegetables can be picked “green” and they continue to ripen off the vine. Cantaloupe, however, must reach a certain level of ripeness before it is picked or it will never continue to ripen. The key is to look where the cantaloupe was picked from the stem. The cantaloupe should be ripe enough to “fall” off the stem- so the stem end should be smooth and when pressed inward, the stem should give or indent a little.
Other signs of ripeness are that the cantaloupe netting is raised, the melon should be heavy for its size and of course, it shouldn’t be green.The blossom end should be slightly fragrant.
The cantaloupe will continue to soften if kept at room temperature if it was “ripe” when purchased, however, it won’t become sweeter. Purchased cantaloupe can be stored at room temperature. Once it is cut it should be stored in the refrigerator, ideally the crisper, for 3 – 5 days.
For safe storage, it is recommended not to wash the melon before storing it–a damp melon is more susceptible to developing mold.
Cantaloupe has the possibility of harboring food borne germs because it lies on the ground while growing. When purchasing, check for melons that are not blemished or contain cuts. When preparing the cantaloupe. scub the surface of melon with water, (not soapy water) and a brush. Use a clean knife to cut the melon and another clean utensil to cut inside of pieces.
Nutritional Value of Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe is rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin A–or its precursor, carotene. It is one of the more nutritious summer fruits and vegetables.
Cantaloupe doesn’t need much to dress it up. I associate cantaloupe with breakfast or with a fruit cup at any meal. I like to serve melon balls with one of our most favorite breakfast menus–french toast and ham.
Cantaloupe is a mild flavored fruit and blends well in an unusual combination of lime, cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos and onions to make a tasty melon salsa. I served this recipe with chicken enchiladas and rice, tortilla chips.
Fresh Melon Salsa
Fresh Melon Salsa
- 1 cup cantaloupe, diced in small pieces (about 1/4 of a large melon)
- 1/2 cup cucumber, cubed (1 small cucumber)
- 2 Tbsp red onion, minced
- 1 small jalapeno pepper, minced finely (about 1 Tbsp)
- 1/4 cup very loosely packed cilantro leaves, then chopped finely
- 1 lime, juice and zest
- 1 Tbsp canala oil
- salt to taste, just a few sprinkles
Combine the cantaloupe, cucumber, red onion, jalapeno pepper and cilantro leaves in medium bowl. Add the lime juice and zest and stir to combine. Drizzle canola oil over. Chill.
Just before serving, sprinkle lightly with salt. (It increases the sweetness of the cantaloupe).