In the United States, the word cantaloupe refers to a variety of closely related melons. Most melons referred to as cantaloupe in the US are technically muskmelons, a distinct melon from the true cantaloupe grown mostly in the Mediterranean. European cantaloupes have ribbed skin that resembles a basketball, and is gray-green in color. Its flesh is yellow and very sweet. North American cantaloupes have brownish skin that has a net-like texture. Its flesh it orange and moderately sweet. To avoid confusion, this article will refer to these closely related melons simply as ‘cantaloupe.’ The origin of cantaloupes is not certain. The diversity of types of melons in Africa suggests that they originated on that continent, but it’s also likely that they originated in parts of Asia. Melons that resemble the modern cantaloupe originated in northern Africa, and they were cultivated by the Egyptians and Greeks, at least 4000 years ago. The name for cantaloupe comes originally from Italian, as the melons were named for the region in Italy, near Rome called Cantalupo. It was believed that this was the first place in Europe that the melon was grown. Cantaloupes were introduced to North America in the sixteenth century. Today, cantaloupes are the most popular melon in the United States.
Cantaloupe is commonly eaten raw either in slices or in bite-sized chunks. Fruit salads frequently feature cantaloupe. Cantaloupe pairs well with mint, so try elevating fruit salad by topping it with fresh mint, ginger, and a drizzle of honey. For a sweeter take on salsa, add some fresh cantaloupe. Add cantaloupe to tossed salads for a pop of sweet flavor. Arugula works well with cantaloupe, so try a salad with arugula, fresh cantaloupe, mint, and prosciutto. Cantaloupe wrapped with prosciutto is a common appetizer. For a cool, light meal or side dish, cantaloupe soup can hit the spot. Simply blend the flesh of a cantaloupe with fresh mint and lime juice and chill for at least three hours. There are even ways to incorporate cantaloupe into baking. Try things like cantaloupe cream pie or cantaloupe bread. There are numerous drinks to be made with cantaloupe. Try cantaloupe sangria, include cantaloupe in an agua fresca recipe, or make a smoothie with fresh cantaloupe, ice cubes, honey, and fresh mint.
Select cantaloupe that are firm to the touch and heavy for their size. This indicates that the melon is high in moisture and is fresh. A ripe cantaloupe has a musky scent and the stem end of the melon will be noticeably softer. Keep fresh melon in the refrigerator. It is recommended to cut melon just prior to use to prevent contamination. Cut melon can be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in plastic for about two days. Cut melon should not be stored uncovered or at room temperature for any length of time. Always be sure to thoroughly wash fresh produce before use.