Today we enjoy rather elaborate, “treat me” appetizers or starters, quite a contrast to earlier first courses. Not too many years ago, first courses were tomato juice, fruit cup or a wedge of cantaloupe. Now, we tend to serve cantaloupe at breakfast time, for snacking and in some more elaborate hors d’oeurvres.
Cantaloupe is the most popular muskmelon in North America. Its oval shape has a vague netting over its beige/yellowish exterior while inside its startling, sunny-orange flesh awaits. Keep in mind all cantaloupes are muskmelons, however all muskmelons are not cantaloupes. Other members of the musk group are Honey Dew, Persian and Casaba.
Cantaloupes have many regional names, some of which are rockmelon, spanspek, mushmelon or muskmelon. They all belong to the Cucumis melo variety and member of the Cucurbitaceae family. All members of this family have certain traits such as a relatively thin skin, a sizeable wall of tender flesh, then pulp with seeds in its center. Some of the family members have an edible seed/pulp area; the pumpkin, for instance, has seeds which are processed separately in order to consume. Other family members are cucumbers, watermelons, zucchini, gourds, and squashes. Because cantaloupes have been subject to many diseases over the years, their basic composition has been modified frequently. For this reason, their early ancestors look little like them.
Muskmelon gets its name for its pleasant odor when ripe. The word, “Musk” is Persian for “perfume.” “Melon” is French for an “apple-shaped fruit.”
California’s Imperial Valley grows a large amount of this country’s cantaloupes. Because they are often harvested before becoming fully ripe, they may be treated externally with chemical to ward off mold and Salmonella. This can make it difficult to choose a melon based on its in-store aroma.
Muskmelons originated in Persia, India and Africa, soon embraced by Greece, Italy and Egypt. They were introduced into Bermuda in the early 1600s and in Brazil by the mid 1600s. By 1650, the Brazilians were enjoying cantaloupe. Native Americans cultivated them by the end of this century.
Cantaloupe is rich in vitamins C and A, plus potassium, copper and folate.
A good cantaloupe will have a beige exterior with a strong yellow hue. Some feel the absence of its stem indicates the melon is sweeter, also riper.
Store cantaloupe at room temperature until fully ripe. It will remain good for about a week after refrigerated.
It is wise to wash, using liquid soap, the outside of cantaloupes before cutting into them to remove any chemicals.
- Fresh fruit
- Grilled on skewers
- Melon balls in fruit salad
- Over ice cream
- Wrapped with prosciutto
Below are foodsites with cantaloupe recipes.