Nothing, I repeat, nothing can beat the juiciness and sweetness of ripe cantaloupe!
I love nibbling into this late summer fruit and relishing in its tenderness and distinctive sweetness. I also love to pair it with a wide variety of sweet and savory dishes.
Some of my favorite ways to use cantaloupe are to wrap it in buttery and salty prosciutto, prepare fresh fruit and veggie salads and salsas with it, and make the ever-delectable chilled cantaloupe soup!
However, regardless of my intense love for this fruit, I would often end up picking an unripe melon.
I would quickly cut into the melon, thinking that it’d be the ripest, sweetest, and juiciest cantaloupe, only to be disappointed by an unripe, somewhat bland melon!
All of that changed when I finally learned how to recognize and pick out a ripe cantaloupe!
How to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe
So, how do you know if a cantaloupe is ripe?
Sniffing and touching a cantaloupe are the best ways to tell if it’s ripe or not. A ripened cantaloupe should have a slightly musky, sweet smell.
Make sure to give it a good whiff by sniffing the blossom end of the cantaloupe. If it smells fermented or cloying instead of sweet and musky, then it’s probably overripe, and you shouldn’t buy it.
A ripe cantaloupe is also heavy for its size and has a rind that looks like lifted netting. It will also be firm to the touch but not truly rock hard.
Try to gently press your thumb down on the melon skin near the stem end to see if it yields or not. If it does yield a little, without feeling too soft or mushy, then the cantaloupe is perfectly ripe.
Just make sure that you don’t press it too hard; otherwise, you might end up bruising the fruit.
Moreover, steer clear of cantaloupes that appear to have mushy spots as these spots are clear signs of rot.
Pick a cantaloupe with perfect netting and skin and tap it gently. If it sounds solid and deep, then it is perfectly ripe!
How to pick a cantaloupe
Here are some tips on picking a good cantaloupe every single time:
🟠 The First Glance
When picking cantaloupes, make sure to select those melons that boast sandy gold, beige, or creamy yellow rinds.
Skip the ones with green rinds, as that’s a clear indication that the cantaloupe is unripe. Also, notice the webbing on the cantaloupes as well and pick the ones that have strong, raised webbings.
Look for a cantaloupe with a singular large, smooth, and yellowish patch on its surface as ripe melons usually have that spot; it’s where they rest in the field.
🟠 Feeling the cantaloupe
Take your time and feel the cantaloupe to make sure that it is firm and ripe. Avoid melons that feel too hard and have squishy or soft spots in them.
🟠 Checking the stem
Make sure to inspect the stems of the cantaloupes as well thoroughly. They should appear smooth, round, and slightly indented or concave.
A ripe melon always detaches itself naturally from the stem, so you shouldn’t see any part of the stem still attached to it. If you do, then that melon is probably still unripe, and you shouldn’t pick it.
🟠 The sniffing test
As mentioned above, a ripe cantaloupe has an overall sweet and slightly musky odor.
You should smell the end opposite the stem to see if your chosen melon smells good or not. Discard the melon if it smells overly sweet.
🟠 Picking up the right melon
Don’t forget to pick up the cantaloupe and check its weight. To iterate, a ripe cantaloupe always feels heavy when compared to its size.
Make sure to compare a few ripe cantaloupes and pick the one that feels the heaviest because it will likely be the sweetest and juiciest.
🟠 Give it a few light taps
The last step to help you pick a ripe cantaloupe is tapping the melon a few times with your fingers or hand.
Pick up the melon and tap it gently. It should make a low, solid sound. If the sound coming from the melon is hollow and high-pitched, then avoid picking that cantaloupe.
Do cantaloupes ripen after picking?
Unfortunately, once a cantaloupe has been picked from its vine, it will not ripen anymore. This is why it’s essential to choose a ripe cantaloupe at the market as it won’t ripen on your kitchen counter.
Similarly, the lemon won’t ripen even when it’s cut into or sliced.
However, that doesn’t in any way should mean that you’d throw away the unripe cantaloupe.
You can still use it for a smoothie base or dice into chutneys or salsas. You can also grill the unripe cantaloupe slices to bring out their natural sweetness.
How to store a cantaloupe
You can keep a ripe cantaloupe at room temperature for about two days and keep it in the fridge for up to five days.
It's best for wedges of the cantaloupe to cover the surfaces tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate the melon for up to three days.
Make sure to leave the seeds intact as they will prevent the cantaloupe's flesh from drying out. Peeled, cut, seeded, and cubed cantaloupe will last in your fridge for at least one to two days if you keep it in an airtight container.
If you want your cantaloupe to last longer, then you can freeze the melon by cutting it into cubes or making a cantaloupe puree.
Wash, peel, and cut the cantaloupe into cubes and then put the cubes on a lined baking tray. Put the tray in your freezer to flash-freeze the cantaloupe cubes and then transfer the frozen cubes into heavy-duty freezer bags.
Alternatively, you can puree the cubes, flash freeze the puree in ice cube trays, and then transfer the frozen puree cubes into heavy-duty freezer bags.
Both the frozen puree and cubes will easily last in your freezer for nine months to a year. You can use them in various cooking applications, including smoothies and soups!
Pro Tip: Wash the cantaloupe thoroughly under running water before cutting it to get rid of the grime and bacteria residing in its webbed rind.
The bottom line
It’s always encouraged to inspect, touch, sniff, pick, and tap cantaloupes to ensure that it’s ripe and ready to be eaten!
These are all recommended as cantaloupes in a dish would be futile if its lightness and sweetness aren’t in it. And with its many uses in your recipes down the line, it’s best that you be a stickler on picking a good, if not the best cantaloupe in the bunch.