History & Description:
The most popular type of muskmelon in America is the small, oval, heavily netted kind commonly called a cantaloupe. Musk is a Persian word for a kind of perfume; melon is French, from the Latin melopepo, meaning “apple-shaped melon” and derived from Greek words of similar meaning. Cantaloupe with its refreshingly rich flavour and aroma, and low amount of calories is the most popular variety of melon in Canada. 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.
Cantaloupe is an excellent source of vitamin C and also delivers a good dose of beta-carotene and vitamin A which are known as fat-soluble antioxidants. In addition to its antioxidant activity, vitamin C is essential for good immune function by stimulating white cells to fight infection by killing bacteria and viruses.
Choosing & Storing:
The key to purchasing a good quality melon is to find one that is ripe. If you tap the melon with the palm of your hand and hear a hollow sound, the melon has passed the first test. Choose a melon that seems heavy for its size and does not have bruises or overly soft spots. The rind, underneath the netting, should have turned to yellow or cream from the green undertones that the unripe fruit has. The “full slip,” the area where the stem was attached, should be smooth and slightly indented. The end opposite the full slip should be slightly soft, and you should be able to smell the fruit’s sweetness coming through, although an overly strong odour may be an indication of an overripe, fermented fruit. Leaving a firm cantaloupe at room temperature for several days will allow the texture of its flesh to become softer and juicier. Once the cantaloupe has reached its peak ripeness, place it in the refrigerator to store. Melon that has been cut should be stored in the refrigerator as well and should be wrapped so as to ensure that the ethylene gas that it emits does not affect the taste or texture of other fruits and vegetables.
Tips for Preparing Cantaloupe:
No time to prepare your fruit salad right before serving? You can prepare it several hours ahead or even the day before and still have fresh, delicious cantaloupe. Simply cut up the fruit while holding it under water. Looking for a way to keep pre-sliced ready-to-eat cantaloupe fresh longer? Just slice the fruit, under running cold water which short-circuits the signals plant cells send to each other when they detect an injury, such as being sliced. This allows the cantaloupe to retain juiciness, freshness and colour.