Cantaloupes, like other vining crops such as cucumbers, pumpkins, squash and watermelons, require pollination for fruit set. High temperaturescan cause the cantaloupe to produce only male blooms which results in poor fruit set.
In Georgia, cantaloupes are best planted in March, April, May, June and harvested (which is when you’ll find it fresh at farmer’s markets) in June, July, August.
Cantaloupes have a high water content and low calorie count, llike the summer squash and the high levels of beta-carotene, potassium and Vitamin C found in the winter squash like pumpkins and butternut squash.
Once inside the body, beta-carotene can be converted into vitamin A, so when you eat cantaloupe it’s like getting both these beneficial nutrients at once.
One cup of cantaloupe is just 56 calories, but provides 103.2% of the daily value for vitamin A. Both vitamin A and beta-carotene are important vision nutrients.
In a study of over 50,000 women nurses aged 45 to 67, women who consumed the highest dietary amount of vitamin A had a 39% reduced risk of developing cataracts. In another study that looked at the incidence of cataract surgery and diet, researchers found that those people who ate diets that included cantaloupe had half the risk of cataract surgery, while those who ate the highest amounts of butter, salt and total fat had higher risks for cataract surgery.
Beta-carotene has also been the subject of extensive research in relationship to cancer prevention and prevention of oxygen-based damage to cells.
In addition to its antioxidant activity, vitamin C, abundantly found in cantaloupe, is critical for good immune function. Vitamin C stimulates white cells to fight infection, kills bacteria and viruses, and regenerates Vitamin E.
One cup of cantaloupe contains 112.5% of the daily value for this well-known antioxidant.
Cantaloupe is also a very good source of potassium and a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, folate, and niacin (vitamin B3). The combination of all these B complex vitamins along with the fiber found in cantaloupe make it an exceptionally good fruit for supporting energy production through good carbohydrate metabolism and blood sugar stability.
Here’s a fun video from the Produce Lady on the cantaloupe, how to pick them, and how to prepare them
- Cantaloupe and watermelon salad with mint vinaigrette
- Cantaloupe, honedew, and sweet onion gazpacho with crispy prosciutto
Wash cantaloupes thoroughly before slicing to remove any potential bacteria. The easiest way to enjoy a melon is to cut it in half, remove the seeds and eat a half or quarter (depending on its size), scooping out the flesh with a teaspoon.
To cube a cantaloupe, quarter the cantaloupe lengthwise and slice off the usable fruit from the rind with a sharp knife, and then cube as desired. Another method is to slice off the rind with a sharp chef’s knife and slice lengthwise (to the desired width), and cut crosswise into cubes. This method works best when you have a lot of melon cubes to do.
Cantaloupe balls can be scooped right from a melon half without removing the rind. Melon ballers come in various sizes and are handy not just for melons but for other fruits as well. A twist of the wrist and a little twirl will give you pretty round shapes.
Make a classic hors d’ oeuvre by wrapping cubed melon in a thin slice of prosciutto, and securing with a toothpick, or for a first course, lay a few thin slices of cantaloupe across a plate, and drape or lightly wrap sheer slices of prosciutto over them.
If you discover a cantaloupe is not quite ripe after you’ve cut it open, it can be rescued with some orange or melon liqueur, orange or other citrus juice, a little sugar, and maybe some minced candied ginger for added flavor. Overripe melon can be used for cold melon soup or a smoothie with some yogurt, honey, and orange juice.
Did You know You can Freeze Cantaloupe? Yep. You can.
Cut ripe, firm cantaloupe into chunks or balls and flash freeze (lay onto a pan in one layer and freeze solid. Put into bags or containers. Note that if the cantaloupe is too ripe, it could get mushy but if it is not ripe enough, it could get too hard! Just the right stage of ripeness is important when freezing cantaloupe.
Pollination of the plant depends on bees, thus conditions such as rain, wind, cold, and cloudiness which are unfavorable for bees can decrease the crop yield.
- Choose a site that gets full sun and good air circulation.
- Plant four to six feet apart.
- Cover the patch with plastic sheeting at night to keep the plants from freezing.
They can take up to 75 days sometimes to grow to maturity. Melons are ripe, usually, when the stem is dry, so check the stem often. You can harvest a week or so early and store cantaloupe in the fridge for a week. The Utah State University Cooperative Extension has even more specific growing instructions here. The Georgia climate is a bit different from Utah’s but these general rules apply.