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Cantaloupe: A Nutritious and Delicious Fruit With Health Benefits

Updated on August 12, 2017
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Linda Crampton is a teacher with an honors degree in biology. She enjoys exploring nutrition as well as the culture and history of food.

Nutritious and delicious cantaloupes
Nutritious and delicious cantaloupes | Source

A Popular and Tasty Melon

Cantaloupes are the most popular melon in the United States. Their beautiful orange flesh has a sweet and delicious taste and a fragrant aroma. They are nutritious fruits that contain a wide variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals. They are a great melon to eat on their own or to use in fruit salads, smoothies, or desserts.

Cantaloupes are sometimes known as rockmelons or muskmelons. The outer rind or skin of the fruit is a buff or pale orange color. It's covered with ridges arranged in a mesh pattern, which produces a distinctive appearance. The ridged and indented surface is often said to have a netted or webbed pattern. The indentations mean that there is an important precaution that needs to be taken when preparing a cantaloupe for a meal. The outer rind can trap harmful bacteria and should be washed carefully before it’s cut.

A carved cantaloupe
A carved cantaloupe | Source

The Cantaloupe

The scientific name of cantaloupes is Cucumis melo. This is the same scientific name of most melons and squashes, which are all close relatives of each other. The European cantaloupe and North American cantaloupe are different varieties of melon. The European variety is referred to as the “true” cantaloupe and has a smooth rind.

The origin of the name "cantaloupe" is unknown. The leading theory is that the plant is named after Cantaluppi or Cantalupo, a papal estate that once existed near Rome. This estate is traditionally thought to have been the first European site to cultivate the plant. Africa, Iran, and India have all been suggested as the place where cantaloupes originated.

An uncut cantaloupe
An uncut cantaloupe | Source

Cleaning the Rind to Prevent Foodborne Illness

Both Salmonella and Listeria bacteria may be present on the rind of a cantaloupe. These organisms can cause foodborne illness. Before a cantaloupe is cut, the rind should be scrubbed with a hard brush. The brush should be cleaned afterwards so that it doesn’t contaminate other food. If an uncleaned rind is cut with a knife, bacteria may be transported to the flesh of the fruit, contaminating it.

The fruit should be eaten soon after cutting so that any bacteria on the flesh have only a short time to multiply. Cut cantaloupe must be kept in the refrigerator in a covered container and should be eaten within three days.

How to Peel and Cut a Cantaloupe

Beta-Carotene and Vitamin C

Cantaloupes are rich in beta-carotene, which our bodies change into vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed to keep our eyes and skin healthy and our immune systems working efficiently.

Cantaloupes are also an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps to maintain healthy skin and gums, stimulates wound healing, enables the body to make the collagen found in muscles and skin, and helps iron to be absorbed in the small intestine. It may also improve the functioning of the immune system, although evidence for this is mixed.

Vitamins A and C are antioxidants. These are substances that neutralize chemicals called free radicals, preventing them from damaging our DNA. Free radicals are produced by chemical reactions in our body. A high concentration of the chemicals in the body may contribute to the development of certain diseases. Some researchers theorize that free radicals also contribute to the aging process.

Clinical trials in which people have taken antioxidant supplements have had very mixed results, with some trials showing no benefit with respect to a health problem—or even harm from taking the supplements—while others have shown benefits. However, plenty of research has shown that eating whole fruits and vegetables containing natural antioxidants and many other helpful substances is beneficial.

A Cantaloupe Smoothie Recipe

Some Other Nutrients in the Fruit

Cantaloupes are also rich in potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral for muscle contraction and the heartbeat. In addition, cantaloupes provide smaller but useful amounts of other vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin B6, vitamin K, and magnesium.

A ripe cantaloupe contains a lot of fructose, which gives it sweetness. Unlike sucrose (table sugar), fructose doesn't increase the blood sugar level dramatically. It is a type of sugar, however, and shouldn't be eaten in excess. If you use very ripe cantaloupe in your recipes you probably won't have to add any other sweetener to them.

An interesting macro photo of cantaloupe rind or skin
An interesting macro photo of cantaloupe rind or skin | Source

Using the Seeds

The center of a cantaloupe contains a cavity in which the seeds and fibers are located. Both the seeds and the fibers are safe to eat. However, make sure that you use seeds taken from a cantaloupe that you have cut open. Don't eat seeds from a seed packet or seeds that have germinated, which may not be safe, depending on what treatments the seeds have had.

The raw seeds are hard and aren't very tasty. Roasting the seeds with vegetable oil and spices improves the texture and produces a delicious taste. You may have to save washed and dried cantaloupe seeds in a refrigerator until you have enough to roast. The seeds can be cooked in oil in a frying pan until they turn light brown. They need about ten minutes in the pan.

Some people use both the cantaloupe fruit and the raw seeds to make a milk by placing them in a blender with water and then filtering the mixture after blending. The seeds reportedly contain protein and fat as well as some carbohydrate.

Using Cantaloupe Safely

Choosing a Fruit

When you're buying a cantaloupe in a store, choose one that feels heavy for its size. There should be no bruises, dents, green areas, or soft spots. The fruit should have a pleasant aroma. You may be able to buy cantaloupe at any time of the year, but the summer ones are more likely to have been grown nearby and will taste sweeter.

It's certainly not necessary to avoid buying cantaloupes because of the fear of bacterial contamination. The taste of a ripe cantaloupe is too good to miss. It is a good idea to wash the fruit before using it, though.

How to Grow Cantaloupes (Mini Variety)

Planting the Seeds and Growing the Fruit

I love cantaloupes, but I've never grown any. People with experience growing cantaloupes say that the freshly picked, homegrown fruit is tastier than store bought fruit. In a suitable climate it doesn't seem to be too difficult to grow the plants. They need sunlight, heat, and a good water supply that doesn't saturate the soil. Growers say that when the fruits are ready to pick they detach from their stems easily, almost slipping off the stems on their own.

Cantaloupe seeds are sometimes planted in mounds or hills to allow excess water to drain away from the plants. The usual recommendation is to plant five or six seeds about two inches apart and about one inch deep in each mound. The mounds should be four to six inches apart. The seedlings will need to be thinned once they've germinated. The plants grow well next to a trellis.

The seeds can be planted in pots indoors and then transplanted outdoors once they have germinated. It's very important that the roots aren't disturbed as the seedlings are placed in their permanent home.

It's recommended that cantaloupe seeds aren't planted until the soil temperature has reached at least 70°F. In temperate climates with a short growing season, the soil can be covered with black plastic to warm it up, as long as there are holes cut in the plastic.

Recognizing Salmonella Food Poisoning

Salmonella Infection

Cantaloupes are occasionally recalled due to the presence of bacteria, such as Salmonella, which can cause foodborne illness. Listeria may also be a contaminant on cantaloupes, but Salmonella seems to be a more frequent problem. The bacteria are located on the rind but can easily be spread to the flesh once the cantaloupe is opened. The most common species of Salmonella involved in food poisoning is Salmonella enteritidis.

Symptoms of a salmonella infection include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle pain, fever, and chills. The symptoms appear after an incubation period, which ranges from 8 to 48 hours after infection. The unpleasant effects of the infection generally last for 2 to 5 days but may last as long as 2 weeks.

Salmonella bacteria generally live in the digestive tract of humans. Bacteria may be shed in the feces for months after a person has apparently recovered from the infection. Animals can develop salmonella infections, too. Most infections in humans are caused by eating food contaminated by animal feces. This food includes meats as well as fruits and vegetables. Food hygiene is very important when using raw meat in a kitchen. Fortunately, Salmonella bacteria are killed by cooking.

Salmonella is a rod-shaped bacterium.
Salmonella is a rod-shaped bacterium. | Source

Treating a Salmonella Infection

The immune systems of healthy people are usually able to destroy Salmonella bacteria, resulting in relatively mild infection symptoms which may require no treatment apart from drinking lots of fluids. If symptoms are severe or last for a long time, however, a doctor should be consulted. Young children, elderly people, and people with weak immune systems may become seriously ill from a salmonella infection and require hospitalization.

It's important for everyone—even those people who aren't in a high risk group—to wash cantaloupes before cutting them. If you do this you'll have safe access to the delicious and nutritious flesh of the cantaloupe as well as its useful seeds.

References

Nutrients in cantaloupes from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)

Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype from the Harvard School of Public Health

Food safety tips for avoiding a Salmonella infection from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

© 2012 Linda Crampton

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    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, Kristen.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub about the canteloupe. Very interesting to learn about this fruit.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the comment and the votes, phdast7! I love cantaloupe as well - it's my favorite melon.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I love canteloupe! Good to know about the seeds - it had never occurred to me! Interesting and useful hub. Lots of votes. :)

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, homesteadbound. I appreciate your comment!

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

      i had no idea you could eat the seeds. Thanks so much for such a well written hub. it is obvious you did your homework on this one!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, nmdonders. Thanks for the comment. I never used to wash cantaloupes either, but after the report of one nasty episode of foodborne illness caused by cantaloupes I realized how important it was!

    • nmdonders profile image

      nmdonders 5 years ago

      I know a lot of people that don't wash melons before cutting them because they probably don't even think about it. I like your idea with eating the seeds I will have to try that. Thanks for the great info.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for both the comment and the vote, Lesley! I appreciate your visit.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I love cantaloupe melons but had never thought of eating the seeds, a fabulous hub thank you and voted up.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the comment, Tom. I'm glad that cantaloupes are tasty and are also a good source of nutrients like vitamin C and potassium. That makes a good reason for me to eat lots of cantaloupe! Thank you very much for the vote.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend love all this great information about cantaloupes i did not know you could eat the seeds but i did know that they did contain both Vitamin C and potassium . Well done !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love the idea of eating cantaloupe with ice cream, Susan! I'm going to try that soon - it sounds delicious. Thank you for the comment.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, vespawoolf. Yes, it's very nice to know that cantaloupe is nutritious as well as delicious! Thanks for the visit and the vote.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I never knew you could roast and eat the seeds from the cantaloupe. I enjoy eating this fruit all year round and when I was a child my grandmother would would cut the cantaloupe in half, remove the seeds and fill it with ice cream. Made a nice dessert.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment, the vote and the share, Kelly! I hope you enjoy the roasted cantaloupe seeds.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Nell. Thank you for the visit. I appreciate your comment and the vote!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I had no idea that cantaloupe contains both Vitamin C and potassium. And eating the seeds is a new idea to me. I'll definitely try it! Here in Peru, there aren't many seeds available so it would be a great alternative to sunflower seeds. Voted up!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      This is a fantastic hub. I didn't know I could roast cantaloupe seeds. I have one right now so I'll try this soon. voted up and shared! Kelley

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Thats funny that you should mention Salmonella I remember reading about that part a while ago, but forgot that it was cantaloupes they were talking about. Fascinating hub, I learned so much, thanks! voted up and thanks for sharing!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the visit and the comment, HawaiiHeart. It is important to handle cantaloupe carefully. It's a nutritious and tasty fruit, but there have been outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to bacteria on cantaloupes.

    • HawaiiHeart profile image

      HawaiiHeart 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I had no idea cantaloupe seeds were edible. Very informative hub and very important info. about safe handling!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Mama Kim 8! It's nice to meet you. Thank you for the comment. I prefer eating the flesh of the cantaloupe, but it's nice to eat the roasted seeds as well!

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 5 years ago

      If it wasn't for this hub I would have never know the seeds were edible! I love cantaloupe and now I don't have to "waste" as much ^_^

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the vote and the share, Mary! I appreciate your visit and the comment. I love the taste of cantaloupes, too!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      You have written another very informative Hub here. That photo of the cantaloupe made my mouth water! I love those things. It never occurred to me that the seeds could be eaten.

      I voted this UP, and I will share, too.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, Joyce. I appreciate your comment and the votes!

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Great hub about cantaloupes and very helpful info.

      Vote up useful and interesting.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Natasha. Thank you for the comment and the votes! Yes, the seeds are nice when they're roasted. Washing the cantaloupe before cutting it is important, too. It doesn't take long to do with a good scrubbing brush!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I don't know why I never thought to cook and eat cantaloupe seeds. I've done it many times with pumpkin seeds. Thanks for the idea! Also, thanks for pointing out that the rind is a great safe-haven for bacteria. It makes sense, now that I think about it, but it had also not really occurred to me. Voted up and useful!