How to Pick a Cantaloupe
Finding a great cantaloupe can feel like winning the lottery—cool, juicy chunks melt in your mouth with a sweetness only nature can manufacture. But that only happens if you know how to pick a cantaloupe; otherwise, you're left with hard flavorless chunks of melon. Here are a few things to look out for when you're picking the perfect cantaloupe. And once you've picked the perfect melon, learn how to cut a cantaloupe.
If you don't have time to sort through a pile of cantaloupes at the grocery store or farmers' market, the best way to pick a cantaloupe is by smelling it. Pick up the melon and take a whiff of the stem end. There should be a sweet smell, but not too sweet. If you can't smell anything, it's not quite ripe.
If you have a bit more time to invest in your cantaloupe shopping, there are some other indicators to help you choose a ripe melon—examining the outside is one of them. On the outside, the color should be a light beige with no green showing through the rind. If you see green, that means it's not quite ripe. You should also check the end to see if there's still a stem. The end should look like a belly button; if a stem is still attached, that means it was cut from the vine too soon.
Pick up a melon and get a feel for its weight. If it feels heavy for its size, it's ready to eat. If it's light or feels hollow, move on to the next melon. If the melon you picked passed the smell, sight and weight tests, run your fingers around the rind and give it a very gentle squeeze. A ripe cantaloupe should have some give, but it should be firm without being rock-hard. Then feel for soft spots. If there are many soft spots, the melon may be too ripe. A few small soft spots are OK as long as the rest of it is still a little firm. The cantaloupe is probably still good but should be eaten immediately.
How to Store Cantaloupe
If you're not ready to eat your ripe cantaloupe, you can refrigerate it for up to five days. If your melon wasn't quite ripe when you bought it, you can store it at room temperature to speed up the ripening process. Once it's ripe, into the fridge it goes. To store cut melon, cover it with plastic or place the cut pieces in an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to three days.
You can freeze cantaloupe, but when you thaw the melon, you'll lose the texture and structure. That doesn't mean you can't use it. Frozen cantaloupe can be used in things like smoothies, cantaloupe juice, cocktails or frozen treats like granitas.
To freeze cantaloupe, cut the melon into chunks and place them in a plastic, airtight container and freeze for up to six months.
Cantaloupe is a refreshing summer treat and, as a bonus, it also provides a few health benefits. In 1 cup of cantaloupe chunks, there are about 50 calories. You get about 30% of the Daily Recommended Value for vitamin A, which supports the immune system, vision and reproductive health. It also provides more than 50% of the DV for vitamin C, which also helps keep the immune system healthy and helps with absorption of iron from plant foods.