Muskmelon, Cantaloupe

The name cantaloupe applies to two types of muskmelons, but most often North Americans use "cantaloupe" refering to the reticulated muskmelon, known for its bright orange flesh and distinctive smell. Cucumis melo cantalupensis is the European or true cantaloupe, known by its pale green outer skin. This article pertains to Cucumis melo reticulatus, which is much more common in the Americas.

The muskmelon is a long trailing annual vine that belongs to the cucumber family. The netted melon, or muskmelon, is usually called a cantaloupe. Real cantaloupe (the European variety) is not often grown in home gardens.

The netted melon or muskmelon is very often called a cantaloupe.
The reticulated muskmelon is most often called a cantaloupe.

Honeydew melons have a smoother surface than muskmelons and lack their distinctive odor; they ripen later and require a longer growing season. This article's growing information on muskmelons on the next page also applies to honeydews.

Common Names: Muskmelon, Cantaloupe, Netted melon
Scientific Name:
Cucumis melo reticulatus
Hardiness: Very Tender (will not survive first frost)

In the next section, we'll show you how to grow muskmelon, cantaloupe.

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Growing Muskmelon, Cantaloupe

Muskmelon is a warm-weather plant that will not tolerate even the slightest frost. It also has a long growing season, which means you must select a variety suited to your region's climate. In cool areas, grow muskmelons from transplants; use individual, plantable containers so the root system is not disturbed when you transplant. Set the plant in the garden when the ground is warm: two to three weeks after the danger of frost.

Muskmelon, cantaloupe can be grown from seeds or by transplants.
Muskmelon, cantaloupe can be grown from seeds or by transplants.

Muskmelons must have full sun and need a well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Grow muskmelons in inverted hills spaced 4 to 6 feet apart. If you're planting from seed, plant six to eight seeds per hill and then thin to the strongest two or three seedlings. If you're using transplants, put two or three in each hill. Muskmelons need a lot of water while the vines are growing, but stop watering when the fruit ripens.

Harvesting Muskmelon, Cantaloupe

The time from planting to harvest is 60 to 110 days, depending on the variety. Leave the melons on the vine until they're ripe; mature melons will easily slip off the stem.

Types of Muskmelon, Cantaloupe

  • Ambrosia Hybrid, 86 days, produces thick, firm fruit about 61/2 inches in size.
  • Sweet 'n' Early Hybrid, 75 days, is an early variety that is good for short seasons.
  • Burpee Hybrid, 82 days, produces deep orange, firm fruit.

In the next section, we'll show you how to select muskmelon, cantaloupe.

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Selecting Muskmelon, Cantaloupe

In general, look for melons that are evenly shaped with no bruises, cracks, or soft spots. Select melons that are heavy for their size; they tend to be juicier.

Cantaloupes should have a prominent light brown netting that stands out from the underlying smooth skin. If the stem is still attached, the melon was picked too early. Ripe cantaloupes have a mildly sweet fragrance. If the cantaloupe smells sickeningly sweet, or if there is mold where the stem used to be, it is probably overripe and quite possibly rotten. Cantaloupes continue to ripen off the vine, so if you buy it ripe, eat it as soon as possible.

Recognize a fully ripe cantaloupe by its slightly sweet smell.
Recognize a fully ripe cantaloupe by its slightly sweet smell.

Preparation and Serving Tips
Some people like melons only slightly chilled or even room temperature, but some choose to serve cantaloupe icy cold. A multicolored melon-ball salad topped with fresh, chopped mint makes a pretty dessert. Chilled melon soup is a refreshing change of pace in hot weather. And the natural cavity left in a cantaloupe after removing the seeds is a perfect place for yogurt or fruit salad. Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice onto cut melon for extra flavor.

In the next section, we'll explain the health benefits of muskmelon, cantaloupe.

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Health Benefits of Muskmelon, Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe offers a decent dose of fiber, which helps fill you up. As a snack for dieters, melons can't be beat. Muskmelon's juicy sweetness is a satisfying substitute for high-calorie snacks and desserts. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most people eat 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit per day. Cantaloupe is a great-tasting way to fulfill that recommendation.

Cantaloupe are rich in potassium, a nutrient that may help control blood pressure, regulate heart beat, and possibly prevent
strokes. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines state that a potassium-rich diet helps keep salt from raising blood pressure and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and possibly age-related bone loss. The guidelines encourage adults to consume 4,700 milligrams per day (while keeping sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, which is one teaspoon of salt).

Muskmelons are also abundant in vitamin C, one arm of the now-famous disease-fighting antioxidant trio. Another arm that's well represented is beta-carotene. Researchers believe that beta-carotene and vitamin C are capable of preventing heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions. No matter which way you slice them, when it comes to nutrition, melons are a cut above.

Cantaloupe is loaded with beneficial nutrients and high in fiber.
Cantaloupe is loaded with beneficial nutrients and high in fiber.

Nutrition Values of Muskmelon, Cantaloupe
Serving Size: 1 cup
Fat 0 g
Saturated Fat n/a
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 12 g
Protein 1 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Sodium 23 mg
Vitamin A 5,276 IU
Folic Acid 33 micrograms
1 mg
Vitamin B6 <1 mg
Vitamin C 57 mg
Calcium 14 mg
Magnesium 19 mg
Potassium 417 mg
Carotenoids 3,219 micrograms

Want more information about muskmelon, cantaloupe? Try:
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  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.
  • Nutrition: Find out if cantaloupes fit in with your nutrition goals.
  • Cantaloupe Stain Help: Learn how to get melon stains out of fabric.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.