The Humble Gardener is celebrating by bringing you a few fun facts about these sweet, fragrant melons. Grab yourself a napkin and take a bite out of a juicy slice of cantaloupe… here’s wishing you a great harvest!
- They aren’t really “cantaloupe”. The melon that’s most widely recognized as cantaloupe in the U.S. is actually a “reticulated muskmelon.” This North American muskmelon is distinguished by its netted skin and strong scent. Its European counterpart– the true cantaloupe– has ribbed pale green skin and looks very different from our cantaloupe. For the purposes of this list, we’ll continue to refer to the muskmelon as a cantaloupe…
- Cantaloupe derives its name from the town of Cantalupo, Italy, where cantaloupe seeds arrived from Armenia and were planted in the Papal Gardens in the 16th century.
- It has plenty of relatives! Cantaloupe are members of a vine-crop family known as Cucurbitaceae, which includes other melons, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and gourds.
- Its past is mysterious. No one seems able to pin-point exactly where cantaloupe first showed up. Some historians trace the origins of the muskmelon to Biblical times in Egypt and Greece. Others point to Persia. According to the University of Illinois, the oldest illustrated reference to a cantaloupe dates back to 2400 B.C. in Egypt. Ancient records from Greece also make mention of the cantaloupe. We can thank Christopher Columbus for bringing along some muskmelon seeds on his voyage to the Americas, spreading cantaloupe cultivation to our side of the pond.
- Low-calorie goodness! An average-sized cantaloupe contains just 100 calories. Who knew something so sweet could be good for you?
- Cantaloupe tell you when they’re ripe. The vine will naturally slip from the fruit when it’s harvest time. You’ll also notice the skin will turn creamy-beige under the “netted” pattern on the melon.
- Cantaloupe are the most popular melon in the United States!
- Full of nutrients. Cantaloupe is packed with Vitamin A and antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin and cryptoxanthin. That means protection against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.