Cantaloupe

cantaloupeBy Kurt Nolte

In 2009, melon growers in Yuma County produced spring melons on roughly 5,200 acres valued at over $4.6 million. The region has two growing seasons with the bulk of production occurring in the spring. About 1000 acres of cantaloupe are grown as a fall crop.

Cantaloupe comes with its own serving bowl. You can cut them in half through the middle and scoop out each half with a spoon.

It is hard to believe, but the great taste of a juicy sweet cantaloupe comes with a very small caloric price: only 50 calories per 6-oz. slice.

The true “cantaloupe” (Cucumis cantalupensis) from Cantalupo, Italy is actually muskmelons – with their soft rinds and netted surface markings – that are so popular worldwide.

Leaving an uncut cantaloupe at room temperature for two to four days makes the fruit softer and juicier.

One serving (1/4 of the medium melon) provides more than 400 percent of your daily vitamin A, and it also provides nearly 100 percent of your daily vitamin C.

The longer a cantaloupe stays on the vine, the sweeter the flavor.

Good-quality cantaloupe will have large webbing or netting on the skin, will have yellow/orange coloring and be slightly soft on the stem end (firm elsewhere). They will also have a good cantaloupe smell on the stem end, and the scar at the stem end should be a smooth and well-rounded cavity. Finally, you can hear the seeds rattle inside a juicy melon when shaken.

Avoid cantaloupes with a rough stem end or with portions of the stem remaining – this means the melon was harvested too early and not at the peak of sweetness. melons with green coloring, soft or sunken spots or dark and dirty spots that look moldy are all signs of poor quality.

For perfect flavor, let a cantaloupe sit at room temperature (not in the window) until it is ripe. If you like your cantaloupe cold, put it into the refrigerator after it has ripened.

What Americans call cantaloupes are actually muskmelons. True cantaloupes are not netted, have smooth to rough skin and are not commercially grown in the United States. Europeans recognize a clear distinction between cantaloupes and muskmelons.

Cantaloupes are harvested by maturity and not by size. Cantaloupes ripen after harvest but do not increase in sugar content.

Cantaloupe is grown in soil, so you may see a slightly whitened area on one side of the cantaloupe. This does not affect the quality of the melon.

Like any fruit, cantaloupes should be washed before eaten. If not, there is a possibility that when cut, the knife will drag any dirt or contaminants into the fruit.

The aroma of the cantaloupe should have a sweet smell about it, especially around the stem area.

Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at knolte@cals.arizona.edu For additional information please visit https://extension.arizona.edu.