Harvesting cantaloupe

Do you call it “cantaloupe” or “muskmelon”? The terms are interchangeable for the most part. If you have some growing in the garden you may be wondering how soon they can be harvested.

Gilbert Miller is an area extension vegetable specialist with Clemson University. He says in general, the time from the female bloom to harvest is 30-to-35 days. The most noticeable sign that the melon is ready is when the fruit easily separates from the stem.

"It’ll be a cracking around the pedestal, or the stem, that attaches to the fruit," says Miller. "They call this ‘slipping’. When you can apply just a little bit of pressure when you see that cracking and the stem comes off, that’s at full maturity."

Your nose can also point out a ripe cantaloupe. Sniff where you pulled it from the stem, and there should be a strong aroma.

Keep an eye on the outer rind. Miller says most varieties of cantaloupes will turn from a green to buff-yellow color, and begin to show a netting pattern on the surface as they ripen.

"The veining on the fruit gets really dense at it matures, less slick surface area on the fruit. The netting, if you pay close observation to it you’ll see the netting will actually start, or the lines will start actually going up the stem," he says. "That’s a good indication that it’s getting close to being mature."

After a cantaloupe is picked it will ripen a bit more, but Miller says it won’t get any sweeter. How you store it is an individual choice. Some people keep it on the counter, others like to eat it cold and store it in the fridge. Miller says either way is fine, but it’ll keep in the refrigerator for at least a week in excellent condition.

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