True cantaloupe is native to Persia (now Iran), but derives its name from the Italian papal village of Cantalup, where it was cultivated around 1700 A.D.
The melon that Americans call cantaloupe is actually a muskmelon or "netted" melon, not a "true" cantaloupe, which is grown only in Europe.
The orange color of cantaloupe's flesh reflects its extremely high beta-carotene content, which converts to vitamin A in the body; both are important for eye health. Cantaloupe is an antioxidant powerhourse, providing more than 100 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin A, as well as significant amounts of vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber.
Potent Antioxidant Profile
With its potent antioxidant profile, eating cantaloupe may help curb chronic conditions associated with oxidative stress. Research has linked deficiencies of beta-carotene, vitamin C, and folate - nutrients in cantaloupe - to increased oxidative stress in the eye, which contributes to cataracts.
Foods rich in vitamins A and C as well as carotenoids, such as cantaloupes, may also protect against lung diseases. And in a study just released, researchers found that women who consumed the most alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lycopene were the least likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer (both estrogen-positive and progesterone-positive).
Choosing Your Cantaloupes
Choose cantaloupes that have no evidence of a stem. They should be well-netted or webbed, with a diameter of five inches or greater. Look for smooth, round cantaloupe with netting all the way around and a depressed area at the stem end.
To pick a sweet cantaloupe, look for the one with small, tight netting on the skin and it should smell sweet. If the seeds rattle, it may be overripe. Avoid soft or bruised cantaloupes.
Cantaloupes were lamented by the children of Israel when they left Egypt to spend 40 years in the wilderness with Moses. From there, melons reached Europe and were cultivated by the Romans.
In a religion called Manicheanism, which was born in Babylon in the 3rd century that sought the release of Light (good) from the Darkness (evil) of matter, cucumbers and melons were thought to contain very high concentrations of Light, and the holy, abstemious Elect of the religion had the power to release this Light by eating them and belching out their Light particles.
Use in smoothies with bananas or other fruit; cut cantaloupes in half and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the center.
Most cantaloupes on display are not ready to eat and need to be ripened for a day or so. Shaking cantaloupes isn't a good way to test ripeness or sweetness.
To ripen cantaloupes, place whole melon inside loosely closed paper bags. Once cut, cantaloupes won't ripen, so store cut fruit or fully ripe whole cantaloupes in tightly sealed plastic bags inside your refrigerator.
Light, refreshing and only 136 calories in each 1/2-cup serving.
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
1 cantaloupe (2-1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup each orange juice and honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
In a small saucepan, soften the gelatin in the cold water for about 5 minutes. Set over low heat and stir until dissolved - about 3 minutes.
In a food processor or blender, puree the melon in batches and transfer to a medium-size bowl. Stir in the gelatin, orange juice, honey, lemon juice and orange rind until well mixed. Pour the mixture into a non-aluminum 9-inch baking dish, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and freeze until firm – 2 to 4 hours. In a food processor or blender, puree the cantaloupe ice in batches until smooth but not liquefied. Re-freeze. Will keep up to 3 days at 0 degrees. Yield: About 1 pint.
Watermelon variation: Follow the directions above, but eliminate the orange rind and orange juice and substitute the flesh of a 3-pound watermelon, seeded and coarsely chopped, for the cantaloupe. Use ½ cup light corn syrup (or to taste) instead of the honey and increase the lemon juice to 2 tablespoons. Store as directed for cantaloupe ice.
- Saturated fat-free
- Very low sodium
- High in vitamin A and vitamin C
- A good source of folate
Back in March, 2008, the Food and Drug Administration issued an alert for cantaloupe imported from Honduras due to an outbreak of Salmonella traced to the fruit, which affected at least 50 people in 16 states. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Such outbreaks have occured before with melons. To be safe, the FDA advises consumers to always take the following precautions with cantaloupe.
- Don't buy bruised melons.
- Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling melons.
- Scrub whole melons with a clean produce brush and tap water (no soaps or detergents) before slicing open.
- Promptly refrigerate melon once cut, and eat within two days. Be sure melon you buy already cut up has been refrigerated or packed in ice.
We urge another caution: Never purchase imported cantaloupe. Make sure your grocer only sells U.S. grown cantaloupe - or buy at your local Farmer's Market.
Cantaloupe Peach Soup Recipe Card
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