Cantaloupe (Cucumis melo, a species in the family Cucurbitaceae) is also known as melon, mushmelon, muskmelon, rockmelon, sweet melon, and Persian melon. Originally, cantaloupe referred only to the non-netted, orange-fleshed melons of Europe, but over time has come to mean any orange-fleshed melon (C. melo). Cantaloupes range in size from 1 to 10 lbs.
1. The European, or French, Cantaloupe is lightly ribbed, with a gray-green skin that looks quite different from that of the North American cantaloupe. It also has a richer, sweeter taste with less “musk” than the North American.
2. The North American Cantaloupe, common in the United States, Mexico, and in some parts of Canada, is actually a muskmelon – a different kind of Cucumis melo – and has a net-like (or reticulated) skin covering. It is round with firm, orange, moderately-sweet flesh and a thin, reticulated, light-brown rind. Varieties with redder and yellower flesh exist, but are much less common in the U.S. market.
Because they are descended from tropical plants and tend to require warm temperatures throughout a relatively long growing period, cantaloupes grown in temperate climates are frequently started indoors for 14 days or longer before being transplanted outdoors.
Growing cantaloupes in the home garden allows people to avoid “market” cantaloupes that are often picked and shipped before fully ripening. Post-harvest “market for sale” practices include treatment with a sodium hypochlorite or bleach wash to prevent mold and Salmonella. This treatment purposely masks the melon's musky aroma and can make it difficult for the end-user to judge the relative quality of different cantaloupes.
Cantaloupe is normally eaten as a fresh fruit, as a salad, or as a dessert with ice cream or custard. Melon pieces wrapped in prosciutto are a familiar antipasto. After cutting the fruit, it should not be refrigerated for three days or more so as to prevent the risk of Salmonella or other bacterial pathogens.