One reason to love summer is the ready availability of locally grown fresh produce. One of my favorites is cantaloupe. Besides being tasty and easy to prepare, cantaloupe can provide a nutritional boost—it is high in vitamin A and C, packed with beta carotene, and low in calories.
How to select a cantaloupe
Selecting a ripe cantaloupe is all about smell. Aroma is a major factor to check for when selecting a cantaloupe, so don’t be shy about sniffing for ripeness before buying. A ripe cantaloupe will have a distinctive aroma. If a pronounced, fruity aroma is not evident, try gently mashing the stem cavity with your fingernail. If the characteristic aroma still isn’t present, the melon probably isn’t ready to eat.
You should also check to see that the stem is not attached. Instead, there should be a slight cavity at the end of the melon. The melon should have coarse netting on the rind with a light green, gray, buff or yellow coloring between the netting.
Cantaloupes do not continue to ripen once picked from the patch, but they will soften somewhat. If the melon you choose isn’t quite ripe, let it sit for two to three days at home until the melon feels springy under slight pressure.
Don’t forget to check for over ripeness. A softening of the entire rind and soft watery flesh indicates the melon is over ripe. Small bruises will not usually hurt the flesh, but avoid those with large bruised areas, since they generally cause soft, water-soaked areas underneath the rind.
Proper storage of your cantaloupe is important, too. Uncut cantaloupe can be stored at room temperature. After slicing into the cantaloupe you should follow standard food safety recommendations, which include refrigeration of cut fruits (or keeping the fruit cold on ice) until consumed. Before cutting, thoroughly clean the whole melon with water and be sure to cut melons with clean utensils on clean surfaces.
Preparing cantaloupe is easy. All you need to do is wash it under running water, cut it in half, remove the stringy center and seeds (a spoon works well to scoop out the seeds) and prepare as desired. You can cut it into chunks, make melon balls, or slice into wedges.
In the south, locally grown cantaloupe should be available throughout the summer. So visit the farmers market, roadside stands, or even find a u-pick farm and take the family on an outing. Even those purchased from the store are tasty this time of year. Just let your nose do the work for you and you too should have a tasty treat for a hot summer day.