How to ripen cantaloupes?

Harvesting Cantaloupe

When harvesting cantaloupe, the most important factor is determining that the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked. If you pick cantaloupe too early, it won’t be as sweet and the flesh won’t be very tender. If you wait too long to pick it, the flesh will be too soft and mealy.

Don’t water your cantaloupe plants the last week or so before harvesting them. This will allow the plant to concentrate the sugars and make for sweeter melons.

There are a few things to look for to determine if your cantaloupe is ready for harvest. First, look at the color of the melon. There is a netting pattern that covers the second layer of rind. Look through the netting to determine what color is underneath. If it looks green behind the netting, the cantaloupe is not ready for harvest. If the rind behind the netting is a yellow or cream color, the melon is ready to be picked.

If the rind has turned creamy yellow, it’s time to smell the cantaloupe. Put your nose right down to the blossom end and take a whiff. There should be a musky odor emanating from the melon. If you don’t smell anything, the melon is probably not ready to be picked. This musky odor is why some people refer to cantaloupes as “musk melons”.

Finally, to determine the right time for harvesting watermelon, inspect the appearance of the the stem. A crack should appear that goes around the entire base of the stem. The melon should easily slip off the vine where this crack occurs. Press gently on the stem to see if the melon detaches. If it slips off, the melon was ready to be picked. If the melon resists slipping off the vine, let it sit for another day and check it again.

After harvesting cantaloupe, store the whole melons in the refrigerator. They will last for up to a week. Cut cantaloupe will last for 4-5 days before starting to go bad. If you have lots of melons and have no hope of eating them all, you can always freeze them for later use in cool drinks, smoothies or soups. Simply remove the seeds and rind and cut the melons into bite-sized pieces. You can also use a melon-baller to cut up the cantaloupe. Store the cut pieces in an air-tight bag in the freezer. They will last for up to 6 months.

When they are done producing, you can remove the cantaloupe vines from your garden and add them to your compost pile.

Now that you know about harvesting cantaloupe, it’s time for a few of our favorite recipes that feature cantaloupe.

How do I tell if a cantaloupe is ripe?

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How to determine a ripe melon

A sure sign of summer in Michigan is the number of locally grown, vine-ripened melons available at farm stands and farmers markets. However, with modern transportation, watermelon, cantaloupe and other melons are available year around. So how does a buyer in the dead of winter determine a flavorful melon?

It is important to understand that not all melons behave the same when it comes to ripening. Some, like watermelon, do not continue to ripen once harvested. Therefore, flavor will not improve nor will they become sweeter—t is what it is at harvest. However, cantaloupe and similar fruit will continue to ripen after harvest. Once into the ripening process, fruit will gain sugar, flavor will improve and flesh soften. For the consumer, this means watermelon and similar fruit can be eaten as soon as you bring it home no matter what time of the year it is. However, cantaloupe and similar melons bought in winter probably need to be held at room temperature for a few days or more to allow it to improve.

The most reliable way to determine if a watermelon is mature is to observe it while it is still on the plant. Since that is not possible in winter, consumers have to use the next step and that is looking at the “ground spot” (Photo 1). The ground spot is where fruit was in contact with the soil. It is easy to recognize since it will not have the same stripes and color of the rest of the fruit—it will have a more solid color. A mature watermelon will have a yellow ground spot (Photo 1). If it is light yellow or even white, make another selection.

Photo 2. Summer cantaloupe showing typical golden color and the “dimpled” stem end where the stem has pulled free from the fruit. CC0 Public Domain.

Honeydew melons are the hardest to know when they are mature. Being light colored, the ground spot technique does not work and they do not “self-pick” like cantaloupe. However, like cantaloupe, they continue to ripen off the plant. To eat a honeydew early is not a bad experience, but you do not want to wait so long that it goes bad. The fruit does not provide the signals watermelon and cantaloupe do. For honeydew, you have to rely on the grower picking it at a good time no matter the season since once you cut it open you have to eat it or refrigerate it.

Left on the plant, cantaloupe fruit begin to disconnect when mature and the fruit will essentially pick itself and be ready to eat right away. Summer melons have a noticeable dimple at the stem end and generally have a golden color (Photo 2). Since ripe cantaloupe are quite soft, they have to be harvested in winter production areas when they are less than fully mature so they are able to survive the transport process in good shape. Instead of allowing them to self-pick, they are cut from the plant.

Photo 3. Winter cantaloupe with the stem still attached. Look for cantaloupe where the stem end has begun to crack (arrow), thus indicating the melon is approaching maturity but will improve in flavor if allowed to sit at room temperature for a few days. Photo by Ron Goldy, MSU Extension.

For winter-grown melons, the stem attachment is still evident on the fruit—no dimple (Photo 3). As the fruit matures, you will be able to see the abscission zone form as a slight crack that gets larger over time and will eventually form a circle around the stem (Photo 3). When selecting a winter cantaloupe, look for one where the remaining stem has started to crack and break away from the melon. When you can see that crack starting to form, that means the fruit was harvested mature enough that the ripening process will continue. It probably still needs to sit at room temperature for a few days as it continues to mature. Be patient and let that happen. It will not attain the golden color of a summer-grown melon, so do not expect it to be quite the same, but neither is the weather outside.

The Right Time To Pick A Cantaloupe – How And When To Pick Cantaloupe

Knowing the right to pick a cantaloupe can mean the difference between a good crop and a bad one.

So you want to pick some cantaloupe but you’re not quite sure how or when to go about it. If you harvest too soon, you’ll be left with a hard, tasteless or bitter melon, as the sugars haven’t had sufficient time to develop and fully sweeten. And once they’re picked, they won’t continue to ripen. However, if you harvest your cantaloupe too late, you’ll be stuck with fruit that is soft, watery, and mushy.

When Can I Harvest Cantaloupe?

Knowing when to pick cantaloupe is not as difficult as one might think. In fact, most cantaloupes are ready

to be picked once they’re fully ripened, changing from green to a tan or yellowish-gray color between the netting. A ripe melon will also exhibit a sweet and pleasant aroma.

One way to tell if a melon is over ripe is by looking at the rind, which will appear quite yellow and soft. So then, “When can I harvest cantaloupe?” you ask. Typically, cantaloupes should be ready for harvesting anywhere from 70-100 days after planting.

In addition, a ripe cantaloupe will not require tugging or pulling in order to harvest it from the vine. Instead, it will easily slip from the vine with little help. There may also be a crack near the point of attachment and the stem will become brown.

How to Pick Cantaloupe

Once your cantaloupe is ready to be harvested from the vine, it helps to know how to pick it. If it’s ripe enough, the melon should separate easily from the vine with a light touch. However, on occasion you may come across one that is stubborn. In this case, the melon should not be pulled but carefully cut from the vine. Pulling may result in damage to the melon, which can lead to disease and poor quality fruit.

Harvesting your cantaloupes is a rather easy task once you know when and how to do it correctly.

How to Ripen Cantaloupe Quickly

Bryan Sander/Demand Media

Some people shy away from purchasing cantaloupe because it’s difficult to tell a good melon from a bad one. With its tough, netted rind, ripeness is not readily apparent on a cantaloupe. However, the melons will continue to ripen after being picked. Their sugar does not change after harvest, so they don’t get sweeter with age. However, they do become more desirable to eat because the flesh continues to soften and the melon becomes juicier, the University of California-Davis reports.

Bryan Sander/Demand Media

Store your cantaloupe at room temperature after harvesting it or purchasing it from the grocery store or a market, the Ohio State University Extension advises. This will encourage the fruit to soften and become more juicy.

Bryan Sander/Demand Media

Set the cantaloupe in a paper bag once you want to speed up the ripening process. Keep it at room temperature during this process.

Bryan Sander/Demand Media

Place ethylene-producing fruits such as an apple or banana in the paper bag with the cantaloupe to further speed up the ripening. Cantaloupes are not as responsive to ethylene to hurry the ripening process, but it will help somewhat, the University of California-Davis reports.

Bryan Sander/Demand Media

Check on the melon the next day to see whether it appears ripe. The best way to check the ripeness of a cantaloupe is by smelling it. A ripe cantaloupe will smell sweet and musty, the Ohio State University Extension advises. A strong smell is an indication that you may have allowed the fruit to become too ripe, so it’s best to check the fruit frequently.

Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

A well-ripened cantaloupe is a glorious thing, honey-sweet and juicy with colorful and deeply aromatic flesh. Canny shoppers are familiar with the visual and sensory cues that identify a ripe melon, one that’s ready to eat or will be after a few days on the counter. Occasionally, though, even melon gurus can become impatient and cut into a melon that isn’t quite ready for prime time. When that happens the melon won’t ripen further, but it can still be improved.

Cantaloupes and Ripening

Some fruit are picked while immature and then gassed to force-ripen them just before reaching market. Melons aren’t well suited to that technique because they don’t develop any further sweetness once they’re picked. However, cantaloupes — unlike most melons — can be ripened by exposure to the ethylene gas that bananas, apples and some other fruits emit. This creates the perception of greater sweetness because it softens their flesh and makes them more aromatic and flavorful. Unfortunately, that process stops once they’re cut.

A Closer Look at Ripening

The reason for that unfortunate reality becomes clear if you look more closely at the ripening process. The sweet flesh of cantaloupes, like other fruit, is intended to act as a fuel supply for the melon’s seeds when they sprout and grow new melons. When the cantaloupe ripens and falls — or is picked — from its vine, it’s not dead but simply entering the final stage in its ripening process. As long as it remains intact, it will continue to grow juicier, lusher and more fragrant. This prepares it to break down quickly and fertilize its cargo of seeds, a process that begins when you cut the melon.

Working with a Cut Melon

If you’ve cut open a melon and found it to be underripe and disappointing, you still have a few options. To begin with, the natural enzymes that break down a melon and turn it to compost will soften it slightly even as it rests in the refrigerator. That softens and improves the texture, though it’ll do little for its flavor. You can help your cause by slicing or dicing the melon and giving it some assistance. Toss it with lemon or orange juice, a sprinkling of sugar, sweet white wine or your favorite fruit-flavored liqueur. You can maximize the flavor of any melon, ripe or not, by bringing it back to room temperature before you serve it.

Choosing the Best

It’s best to avoid the whole sorry situation by learning the signs of a ripe melon. Your nose is one of your best allies in that quest. A melon that’s odorless will usually be flavorless, while a melon that smells ripe and fragrant probably tastes that way, too. The stem end should be smooth and round, without stray fibers that show it was reluctant to be picked. The opposite, or blossom, end should have a small amount of “give” but not be soft or mushy.

Cantaloupe should be heavy for their size, which tells you they’re juicy. Avoid melons that smell fermented, have soft spots or are deeply bruised. Those are usually overripe. The skin under the netting should be a pale tan color, with little green. A green hue generally shows that the melon isn’t quite ready yet.

Is This Melon Ripe?

A few weeks ago, Prevention Magazine‘s editor-in-chief, Liz Vaccariello, invited me on her show, “In the Kitchen With Liz” to answer the question how to choose a ripe melon at the supermarket.

For honey dew and cantaloupe melons, it’s a three-step test: Sniff, Shake & Squeeze. Let me explain.

Give them a quick sniff.

Especially for honey dew melons, you want to give them a quick sniff. They should smell like fragrant flowers, that’s how you know they’re ripe. If they don’t smell, you can still buy them and let them sit out on your counter for a few days until they are just right.

Give them a shake.

When you shake a honey dew or cantaloupe melon, pay attention if the seeds are loose – if they are, then the melon is ripe.

Give them a squeeze.

When you squeeze a melon on the side, it shouldn’t be hard as a rock – it should give a little. Now, obviously you don’t want a spoiled melon, so it shouldn’t be too “squeezable” either!

How do you test water melons? One thing you can do is give it a quick knock. If it sounds like a dull thud, then it’s probably nice, juicy and ripe. For more specific tips, watch the Prevention video…


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