NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Capturing Summer in a Cantaloupe

Capturing Summer in a Cantaloupe

 

Open a cantaloupe when it's fresh and ripe and you'll have a sweet, soft and nutritious snack.  As a type of melon, a cantaloupe's orange pulp is about 90% water, making it low in calories. Cantaloupe also contains a lot of natural sugars, which do contain calories. A large slice of cantaloupe provides 35 calories.  A cup of cantaloupe contains 1.4 g of fiber which makes it a relatively low-fiber fruit. For comparison, an apple contains 3.3 g of fiber, a banana 3.1 g and blackberries 7.6 g

Cantaloupe's orange flesh shows the presence of beta-carotene, the same substance that gives carrots their distinctive color. Your body can convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, an important vitamin for cell growth and repair, eyesight and healthy skin. Cantaloupe also makes a good source of vitamin C, an important vitamin for fighting infection and inflammation. A large wedge of cantaloupe provides 37 mg of vitamin C -- a significant percentage of the recommended daily dose of 90 mg for adult males and 75 mg for adult females.

Like bananas, cantaloupes contain particularly high concentrations of potassium, with around 273 mg in a large slice. This mineral has a vital role in the human body as an electrolyte, which means it helps to conduct electricity through the body. The helps keep your heart pumping, your digestive tract moving and allows your muscles to expand and contract. Cantaloupe also contains smaller amounts of sodium, phosphorus, magnesium and other minerals in lower quantities.

The cantaloupe probably originated in northern Africa or ancient Persia some 5,000 years ago though its name is Italian after a province near Rome where they were regarded as a rarity. Christopher Columbus brought seeds to the Americas where it has been a favorite along with its cousins of pumpkin, cucumbers and gourds.
          Cantaloupe are no longer a rarity but finding a ripe one can be difficult. There are basically two things that you can do to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe or not. The first step and most critical is the smell of the cantaloupe. Look for a cantaloupe that has a musky sweet smell. An odorless one is likely to be tasteless. After finding a musky, sweet smelling cantaloupe the next step in finding a ripe cantaloupe is to press on the opposite side of the stem. Use your thumb and press down, what you want is for the cantaloupe to give a little bit – not a lot as that can indication over ripeness. 

After you have checked both the smell and toughness of the outside it is time to check the outside. Avoid a cantaloupe with soft spots, bruises or punctures. Don't worry if there is a sort of bleached side where the melon rested on the ground. The melon should feel heavy for its size.


The surface of cantaloupe may harbor harmful salmonella or listeria bacteria, especially along the minor cracks and cuts. So carefully wash the whole fruit in cold running water thoroughly before consumption.  A 2011 listeria outbreak in southeast Colorado killed 33 people.

          A Cantaloupe/Raspberry Smoothie is an excellent way to enjoy this mellow summer fruit.

 

Cantaloupe/Raspberry Smoothie

½ of an average size cantaloupe, peeled, seed and cubed

½ C.  vanilla/plain yogurt

1 C. raspberries

1 T. sugar

 

In blender, combine cantaloupe chunks, yogurt, raspberries and sugar. Blend until smooth. Makes two servings.

 

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