Cantaloupes, also known as muskmelons, are high in fibre, and a great source of Vitamins A and C, and folic acid. They contain, on average, only 100 calories–and they are a refreshing summer treat.
Ideal growing conditions
Cantaloupes need warm soil, and they thrive in hot and humid weather. Here in eastern Canada, that means starting them indoors and then transplanting them a couple of weeks after the last frost date, once the soil is warm.
Cantaloupes are heavy feeders. One way to provide them with the nutrients they need is to dig a hole about a foot wide and a foot deep, then refill the hole with a mixture of the original soil and well-rotted manure and/or compost, forming a mound that will stay warmer than the surrounding soil. Mounds should be 3-4 feet apart. If you are limited for space, you can grow cantaloupes on trellises.
Cantaloupe plants need to be well watered, but if they receive too much water, especially as the fruit ripens, it may taste bland. If the plants get too cold they might not bear fruit. You can use floating row covers to help retain warmth, but ensure that you remove them while they are flowering (at least for a few hours a day) to allow for pollination. Each plant has male and female flowers. Fruits develop on the sideshoots where the female flowers grow. If you are lucky enough to have more than three fruits on a plant, pinch the excess small ones off so that the plant will concentrate on developing the first three large fruits.
The different types of cantaloupes have slight variances in colour, size, texture, and taste.
Harvesting, using, and preserving
When a cantaloupe is ripe, its rind changes from grayish green to yellowish beige, and its netting pattern becomes more pronounced. The most obvious signs, however, is the crack that appears around the base of the stem, and the musky smell of the fruit. You should be able to easily cut it from the vine.
You can store an uncut, ripe cantaloupe for about five days. Cut cantaloupe can be frozen or dried.
- Cantaloupe gets its name from the town of Cantalupo, Italy.
- Some varieties of cantaloupes are grown for their seeds, which are used to make oil.