Sweet Success With the Cantaloupe Melon

Grow unique cantaloupe melon varieties and enjoy luscious vine-ripened flavors.

| June/July 2006

If you want to start a summer day off just right, take a spoon and half a slightly chilled cantaloupe melon, go outside and sit on the steps. Now, eat.

Juicy, sweet and supremely satisfying, cantaloupes are good for you, too. A 1 cup serving of deep orange-fleshed cantaloupe provides a full day’s quota of vitamins A and C — even children think it’s a tasty treat.

Want to grow some in your garden? That’s a great idea, because many of the best-tasting cantaloupes are too delicate to ship, though they often hold up well on short rides to and from the local farmer’s market.

The melons that most of us call “cantaloupes” are actually muskmelons, which have distinctive netted skins and a musky odor. Botanically speaking, “true” cantaloupes, such as ‘Prescott Fond Blanc,’ have little or no netting and often have prominent ribs. Both types of melons are in the cucurbit family, which includes cucumbers, pumpkins and squash.

In keeping with their Middle Eastern ancestry, these melons crave warmth and sunlight, so early summer is the best time to start a melon patch.

Gardeners can grow varieties with green flesh, orange flesh or a mixture of both colors. Fruit size also varies considerably from one variety to another. Softball-size ‘Minnesota Midget’ (orange flesh) or ‘Eden Gem’ (light green flesh) will scramble up a trellis with little help, making good use of space in a small garden; or you can let the rampant vines of ‘Old-Time Tennessee' sprawl into a calf-deep green carpet, punctuated with lumpy 12 pound fruits bigger than footballs.

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