Some say cantaloupe and some say muskmelon. Whatever you call this pungent, juicy fruit, the fact is this is one healthy food! Cantaloupe is the perfect snack for adults and kids, and adding this fruit to your diet has definite benefits, besides just being tasty.
What is it?
Cantaloupe is part of the melon family which includes squash, cucumber, gourds, and pumpkin. In America, we know cantaloupe by its rib-textured outer skin. When you slice a cantaloupe in half, you'll find a pocket of seeds and soft threads. Scoop this out and you'll be ready to enjoy the sweet, juicy orange color flesh with its distinctive flavor and aroma.
Grown on vines, this fruit is ripe when the stem begins to separate easily from the cantaloupe itself. Because the aroma of the cantaloupe is so distinctive, many people say it is quite simple to tell if the fruit is ripe. If it smells ripe, it is ripe.
Christopher Columbus is credited with introducing cantaloupes to America during his second voyage to the continent in the late 15th Century. This North American cantaloupe with its familiar orange flesh is the variety we are most familiar with in America. This differs from the European cantaloupe, which has an outer rind of a gray-green color and is smooth instead of ribbed.
Long before North America was introduced to cantaloupe, Africans, Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks grew the fruit in their native lands. The varieties differed just as much as the regions, but it was all cantaloupe.
Like many healthy fruits, cantaloupes are rich in vitamin C and contain antioxidants that help promote good cardiovascular health and better immunity. Cantaloupe also contains beta-carotene, a rich source of vitamin A which reduces the risk of cataracts and promotes eye health.
These vitamins also help limit the damage caused by free-radicals. We can't forget about the cantaloupe's healthy dose of B-complex vitamins which are known to help regulate blood sugar levels by processing carbs slowly, over a longer period of time.
The name “cantaloupe” is derived from an Italian village called Cantalup, which was among the first places where the fruit was cultivated around the year 1700. However, this is known by a few other names in different parts of the world.
Persians and Armenians know this fruit as part of a group of muskmelons that include honeydew, casaba, and crenshaw varieties. South Africans refer to them as spanspeks. Australians call cantaloupe rockmelons.
How to Eat
Most people enjoy fresh cantaloupe raw, on its own, savoring the juicy, rich texture and flavor as a snack or dessert. However, because cantaloupe is so flavorful and appealing, many find it a fun food to experiment with in order to serve in new ways. One interesting serving suggestion is to wrap cantaloupe chunks in thinly cut prosciutto slices for a tasty and eye-pleasing appetizer.
Cantaloupe also goes well with yogurt and mixed with other fruits in sweet salads. You can even make a cold soup by blending other fruits like apples, peaches, and strawberries with cantaloupe together in a cold puree. Cantaloupe also makes a great sweet bread with just the right spices, nuts, and spices like ginger and cinnamon. Slushies and smoothies are another popular way to serve this tantalizing fruit.
Something to keep in mind is that cantaloupes have a short lifespan. Since the surface of the outer rind is so rough, it can harbor bacteria, particularly Salmonella. For this reason, it is important to wash cantaloupes well before cutting them open. Try to eat your cantaloupe within three days of purchase to reduce this bacterial risk.
The unmistakably sweet taste of ripe cantaloupe make this one fruit that is easy to enjoy. For those of us with a sense of culinary adventure, there's a world of interesting recipes waiting for you to explore with this popular seasonal fruit.
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