cantaloupeU.S. grown cantaloupes are available May until October, with the peak  in July.

One of summer’s favorite fruits, cantaloupe melons were originally named after the commune Cantalupo, in the Sabine Hills near Tivoli, Italy.

In America, the cantaloupe is actually a variety of muskmelon unintentionally brought over by Christopher Columbus in the 15th century. It is believed the melons were carried on ships as food and when eaten in the New World the discarded seeds gained a foothold.

Cantaloupes pack a nutritional powerhouse. A single serving provides 80% of the daily recommended allowances for Vitamins A and C. They are also a source of polyphenol antioxidants, which are known to provide health benefits to the cardiovascular and immune systems. These antioxidants promote the formation of nitric oxide, a key chemical in the prevention of heart attacks. Cantaloupes are fat and cholesterol free and very low in calories – about 50 calories for 1/4 of a small melon.

How to pick a good one?

There are many clues that you can look for to find a melon that is ripe. If you tap the melon with the palm of your hand and hear a hollow sound, the melon has passed the first test. Choose a melon that seems heavy for its size, and one that does not have bruises or overly soft spots. The rind, underneath the netting, should have turned yellow or cream from the green undertones that the unripe fruit has. You should be able to smell the fruit’s sweetness subtly shining through, although be careful since an overly strong odor may be an indication of an overripe, fermented fruit.

Leaving a firm cantaloupe at room temperature for several days will allow the texture of its flesh to become softer and juicier. Once the cantaloupe has reached its peak ripeness, place it in the refrigerator to store. Melon that has been cut should be stored in the refrigerator as well and should be wrapped to ensure that the ethylene gas that it emits does not affect the taste or texture of other fruits and vegetables.