Growing Cantaloupe by Madeline Sullivan.
The cantaloupe or “muskmelon” is wonderfully delicious and unique in flavor. It is a member of a large Cucurbitaceae family. Other members of this family include squash, cucumbers, gourds, and pumpkins. All of these relatives and the melons trail as vines on the ground surface. Cantaloupe is thought to have originated either from India, ancient Persia or Africa. It grows best on draining, sandy soil with a proper irrigation facility, and requires honeybees for effective pollination. The melon is a summer season fruit and is at its best from April through August.
Different varieties of muskmelons are grown all over the world. The European cantaloupe (Cucumis melo cantalupensis) gets its name from the Italian papal village of Cantalup. It is lightly-ribbed, pale green skin that looks very different from the North American cantaloupe. The galia melon and the charentais belong to this category. The North American cantaloupe (Cucumis melo reticulatus) is very popular in the United States, Mexico and some parts of Canada. It is named “reticulatus” due to its net-like skin covering. This melon is round or oblong shaped. Its flesh ranges from orange-yellow to salmon color has a soft consistency and juicy texture with a sweet, musky aroma. Honeydew melon has a sweet pale green succulent flesh.
Cantaloupes are low in calories and fats, but rich in Vitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryproxanthin. These antioxidants have the ability to help protect cells from oxygen free radicals and offer protection against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant for vision and skin. Zeaxanthin is an important dietary carotenoid, selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eye, thought to provide antioxidant and protective light–filtering functions. It protects eyes from “age related macular degeneration” disease in the elderly. The cantaloupe is also a good source of potassium, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure and protects against stroke and heart diseases. Additionally, this fruit has B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, and minerals such as manganese.
Cantaloupes are often picked and shipped before fully ripening. Post-harvest fruit is given a sodium hypochlorite wash to prevent mold and Salmonella growth. This treatment, however, masks the melon’s musky aroma and makes it difficult for the purchaser to judge a good cantaloupe by smell. Look for one that feels heavy for its size, with a rind that is clean, but not shiny or overly dull, and has no cuts or bruises.
At home, place the melon in a cool, well-ventilated place, and after cutting, keep it in the refrigerator. Before cutting a cantaloupe, wash the whole fruit thoroughly in cold running water. In the cantaloupe’s center, there is a hollow cavity filled with small, off-white color seeds encased in a web of mucilaginous netting. This cavity must be cleaned and the seeds thrown away before the fruit is prepared. According to size, the flesh can be sliced, cubed, or scooped into balls. The fruit makes good fruit salad or can be used as a desert, adding ice cream or custard. Muskmelon is a wonderful treat that should be on your daily menu all thru the summer.