A Byte of Cantaloupe History
The cantaloupe derives its name from the Italian papal village of Cantalup, where it was first cultivated around 1700 A.D. It belongs to the same family as the cucumber, squash, pumpkin and gourd, and like many of its relatives, grows on the ground on a trailing vine.
The terms cantaloupe and muskmelon are used somewhat interchangeably. What is generally called cantaloupe in the west is really a muskmelon, characterized by a webbed surface. Cantaloupes have a smooth and lumpy skin with deep ridges. Cantaloupes were cultivated in the Nile valley in 2000BC.
Cantaloupe is also known as rockmelon in several parts of the world.
Cantaloupes have significant amounts of Vitamins A and C, are a good source of potassium, and contain small amounts of many other minerals. The rind is rich in nutrients so the whole melon may be juiced. In places with a suitable climate, cantaloupes may be grown all year long. However, extra care must be taken for winter varieties as they are particularly susceptible to disease.
Cantaloupes are best June through September. They should be round, smooth and have a depressed scar at the stem end. If the scar appears rough or the stem is still attached, the melon will not ripen well.
Cantaloupes are best if the netting is an even yellow color with little or no green. Melons can be left at room temperature to ripen. The aroma will usually indicate if it is ripe and sweet. Refrigerate as soon as a cantaloupe is ripe.
Since bacteria can grow on the surface of most melons, it is important to wash the outside of the cantaloupe before cutting into it.
Whole melons will last for a week if they are kept cold. Cut melons, wrapped in plastic with seeds in and refrigerated, are best eaten in a few days. Remember that cut melons are aromatic and their smell will penetrate other foods.
If cantaloupe is ripe you should be able to hear the seeds rattling inside. It should also give off a sweet fragrance. The belly button should be somewhat soft, but if the melon is soft all over, it's probably overripe.
Always wash melons in warm soapy water before cutting to get rid of any impurity on the rind that might be carried from the knife blade to the flesh. Simply cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds and strings.
Melons can be cut into halves, quarters, wedges, cubes, or scooped into balls with a melon baller. Most melons will benefit from a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to enhance the flavor and served at room temperature.
Cantaloupes are rich in nutrients that fight disease, including cancer, such as lung cancer. They should be a welcome and frequent visitor to your table.
Add some sparkling water to fresh squeezed cantaloupe juice for a refreshing drink in the warm months of the year.
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