How to Pick the Perfect Sweet Cantaloupe: 6 Tips

Updated on July 26, 2019
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TheListLady lives in New York City, where she writes about food, healthy living, education, and travel.

Take the guesswork out of picking a ripe melon!
Take the guesswork out of picking a ripe melon!

Choosing a Good Melon Is Tricky Business

Nothing is worse than cutting into what you thought was going to be a sweet, juicy, ripe cantaloupe—only to find that it is inedible. It can be difficult to identify a good one at the grocery store, and since it won't ripen further once you get home, there's no way to fix a mistake.

A member of the Cucurbitaceae family, cantaloupe is also known as sweet melon, muskmelon, rockmelon (Australia), and spanspek (South Africa).

Nothing beats a bowl of perfectly sweet cantaloupe!
Nothing beats a bowl of perfectly sweet cantaloupe!

How to Tell If a Cantaloupe Is Ripe

  • Look it over: The overall color of the rind should be beige, sandy gold, or creamy yellow—but not green (green indicates unripe). The webbing should appear as strong, raised ridges. If you see a large, smooth yellowish spot or patch on the surface, that's where the cantaloupe was resting in the field. The yellowish spot can indicate that the melon is ripe.
  • Check the stem: The stem end should appear round, smooth, and slightly concave (indented). You shouldn't see any part of the stem still attached, as a ripe melon will naturally detach from its stem. Any bit of a stem attached means that the farmer cut off the melon too soon.
  • Smell it. A ripe cantaloupe should have an overall sweet smell, but I get the absolute best melon by putting my nose close to blossom end (the end opposite the stem). It should smell sweet and slightly musky. If it doesn't smell good, I don't buy it. If it smells overpoweringly sweet, or if there's any kind of fermented odor, it's overripe.
  • Feel it: A good cantaloupe should feel firm all over—but not rock hard. If you find any soft or squishy spots, that's usually a sign of rotting. Gently press the blossom end: you should feel a bit of give.
  • Pick it up: A good cantaloupe should feel heavy. Compare the weight of at least a few melons. Choose the one that is the heaviest.
  • Give it a tap: Tap the melon a few times with your hand or fingers and listen to the sound. You should hear a low, solid sound. If it sounds high-pitched or hollow, that's not a good sign.

The Sniff Test

Find the blossom end (opposite the stem) and take a sniff. It should smell sweet and slightly musky.
Find the blossom end (opposite the stem) and take a sniff. It should smell sweet and slightly musky.

Blossom End vs. Stem

Left: blossom end (should smell sweet). Right: stem (look for a smooth, round indentation).
Left: blossom end (should smell sweet). Right: stem (look for a smooth, round indentation).

Cheat Sheet: Picking the Perfect Cantaloupe

Checklist
Ripe
Rind color
Beige, sandy gold, or creamy yellow
Webbing on rind
Strong, raised ridges
Stem
Round, smooth, concave, no stem still attached
Smell
Sweet and slightly musky
Overall firmness
Firm (not rock hard or soft/squishy)
Blossom end
A bit of give when gently pressed
Weight
Heavy
Sound
Low and solid (not hollow)

Handling and Storage Notes

Ripening: Once the melon has been picked from the vine, it will not ripen further. This means that it's important to choose a ripe melon at the market, as it will not continue to ripen on your kitchen counter.

Safety: Always thoroughly wash the cantaloupe before cutting it—the skin of the melon can contain harmful bacteria, including Salmonella and Listeria. Wash under running water and scrub the rind with a hard brush. Don't use soap, which can absorb through the rind into the fruit inside.

Storage: A whole, uncut cantaloupe can be kept in the refrigerator for a bit more than a week. Once you've cut into it, though, the fruit will keep in the fridge for only a few days (store in an airtight container for best results).

Safety Note

Always thoroughly wash a cantaloupe before cutting it—the skin of the melon can contain harmful bacteria.

Health Benefits of Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe has many health benefits. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, and C. It is rich in beta carotene, which can act as a powerful antioxidant in the body. It also contains potassium, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, thiamine, and is a great source of fiber.

Research suggests that eating this melon can help promote healthy hair and skin, improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and preserve eyesight during the aging process. For diabetics or those at risk for diabetes, it may also help reduce oxidative stress in the kidneys.

Plain melon can be delightful, but there are so many other ways to enjoy the fruit. Fun fruit kabobs, savory recipes, and melon-based beverages are just a few ideas!
Plain melon can be delightful, but there are so many other ways to enjoy the fruit. Fun fruit kabobs, savory recipes, and melon-based beverages are just a few ideas!

Recipes: Beyond Fruit Salad

A bowl of juicy cantaloupe is hard to beat, but sometimes you want something a little different. If so, try these fun and creative fruit salad kabobs. Or check out this article from Epicurious with tons of cantaloupe recipes, including drinks and savory dishes. Yum!

Fun Facts

  • Likely origins in ancient Persia. We don't know with absolute certainty where the cantaloupe originated, but experts agree that ancient Persia is one of the most likely candidates. North Africa and India are also strong possibilities.
  • Named after a town in Italy. The melon's name derives from the Italian town of Cantalupo, just outside of Rome, where the pope used to have a country estate. Cantaloupe seeds were brought here as a gift from Armenia in the 14th century; this was the first time the fruit appeared in Europe.
  • It may have killed a pope. Elected in 1464, Pope Paul II was famously crazy about cantaloupe. When he died suddenly after eating dinner one summer evening in 1471, his death was blamed on severe indigestion after consuming two whole melons.
  • A Christopher Columbus connection. During his second voyage in 1493-94, Columbus brought cantaloupe seeds, among many other crop seeds, to the New World.
  • China grows about half of the world's cantaloupes. Other major growers include Turkey, India, Egypt, and Iran.
  • The average American consumer eats 27 pounds of melon per year. This figure, from the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, includes all melons, including watermelon, honeydew, and others. Still, that's a lot of melon!
  • The seeds are edible. Often dry roasted, cantaloupe seeds are popular snack throughout Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia.

Did you know that cantaloupe seeds are edible? When dry roasted, they make a popular snack in many parts of the world.
Did you know that cantaloupe seeds are edible? When dry roasted, they make a popular snack in many parts of the world.

Which method do you use to select cantaloupe?

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Resources and Further Reading

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Grower 

        17 months ago

        A cantaloupe (acutally a muskmelon in the U.S.) does continue to ripen once off the vine, but does not become sweeter.

        Once cut, however, it is far less likely to ripen any further.

        Source: Old Farmer's Almanac

      • profile image

        Dial kalsi 

        19 months ago

        Very good information about how to pick up ripe cantaloupe thank you

      • TheVacationLady profile image

        TheVacationLady 

        9 years ago from Everywhere

        Well I have certainly been going about this all wrong! Great tips..thanks so much!

      • akirchner profile image

        Audrey Kirchner 

        9 years ago from Washington

        Had to come over and check out your hubs after you so kindly stopped by mine! Thanks so much for the fan mail as well.

        Those tips are excellent - I go by the aroma mostly but I never thought about the weight as well. I always look to be sure there is that c-spot (can't think of it now) as you said to signify that it was on the ground and ripening! Anyhow, great info and helps you get a good melon!

      • LivingFood profile image

        LivingFood 

        9 years ago

        Great tips! I didn't know about comparing the weights and picking the heaviest one, Thanks!

      • Veronica Allen profile image

        Veronica Allen 

        9 years ago from Georgia

        I too did not know that a cantaloupe does not continue to ripen once it is picked from the vine. What a great list, I often have a hard time choosing the right cantaloupe - which is so dissappointing once I get home.

      • theherbivorehippi profile image

        theherbivorehippi 

        9 years ago from Holly, MI

        Well now I know what I have been doing wrong all these years! I had no idea. I really believed they continued to ripen. Now I can't wait to go to the grocery store and buy one! lol

      • prettydarkhorse profile image

        prettydarkhorse 

        9 years ago from US

        easy and light reading but very useful, Thanks Carolyn, don't know about this before, Maita

      • elbacho profile image

        elbacho 

        9 years ago from Severna Park, MD

        Thank you for great information. I never thought to wash the cantaloupe first.

      • GreenThumbLady profile image

        GreenThumbLady 

        9 years ago from The Beautiful Earth

        What??? I had no idea that a cantaloupe doesn't continue to ripen after you get it home. What valuable information this is! This explains why I find myself disappointed with my choice so often! Thank you!

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