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All About European Cantaloupe

Has it ever occurred to you that when you eat a bowl of delicious cantaloupe, you may not be eating “true cantaloupe”? According to fruit experts, the true cantaloupe is a delicious cantaloupe known as the European cantaloupe.

Closeup of a whole European cantaloupe on a table.
The striped European cantaloupe claims it’s the “true cantaloupe.”

However, most of us have eaten European cantaloupe at some point, and guess what? You would probably recognize it if you saw it.

Keep reading to learn more about European cantaloupe. You’ll never mistake them for anything else again!

Characteristics of the European Cantaloupe

Scientifically named Cucumis Melo Cantalupensis, the European cantaloupe has the appearance of light netting on the outside, and the netting is less pronounced than that in North American cantaloupes. Additionally, European cantaloupes have light green lines that run down the sides from the top to the bottom.

The European cantaloupe has a tough light-green rind, and ripe melon with juicy flesh smells sweet and musky. The fruit is sweet and vibrant in flavor with gorgeous orange flesh. Many enthusiasts agree that the European cantaloupe has a superior sweet flavor to other types of cantaloupes, including the North American cantaloupe.

European cantaloupe cut into pieces.

History of the European Cantaloupe

Fruit experts believe that the European cantaloup arrived in Europe via Asia or Africa. The name “cantaloupe” comes from the Italian region of Cantalupo. After the fruit arrived from its origin-destination, it was harvested in Cantalupo.

Why do experts say that the commonly eaten cantaloupe is not a cantaloupe at all, but rather, a muskmelon? The line between muskmelons and cantaloupes is maddeningly vague, but the distinction mostly has to do with the netting of the rinds.

A melon with netting is generally scientifically referred to as a muskmelon, while a melon with minimal netting is a cantaloupe. In short, all cantaloupes are muskmelons but not all muskmelons are cantaloupes.

Eating the European Cantaloupe

Generally, fresh cantaloupe is eaten raw by itself or in a fruit salad. You can also use sweet melon and other kinds of cantaloupes to make desserts such as smoothies, custard, or ice cream.

The rind of the cantaloupe can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. Because of this, be sure you wash it thoroughly before cutting it and eating it.

Once the fruit has been cut, cantaloupe slices need to be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within three days.

How to Use the European Cantaloupe in Cooking

If you want to incorporate cantaloupe melons into a savory meal or snack, try wrapping pieces of cantaloupe in prosciutto for a delicious appetizer or light lunch.

Cantaloupe slices wrapped in prosciutto.

Don’t forget the seeds. Cantaloupe seeds are excellent when they are dried or roasted, and they can be eaten whole.

What Goes Well With the European Cantaloupe?

Cantaloupe slices or chunks are delicious in a fruit salad or on fruit kebabs. You can cut up cantaloupe with other melons, apples, grapes, sliced plums, peaches, orange slices, and berries. Serve the fruit salad with a dollop of whipped cream and you have a delicious dessert offering.

Another excellent way to enjoy cantaloupe is to cut the cantaloupe in half and fill a cantaloupe half with cottage cheese. You have an excellent fruit snack or meal that’s full of delicious beneficial protein.

We also love to cut up cantaloupe and serve it with cream cheese fruit dip. To make this dip, mix cream cheese with whipped cream and some juice from a jar of cherries. Then, use the dip with your cantaloupe and other fresh fruit.

Health Benefits of the European Cantaloupe

Cantaloupes are loaded with nutritional benefits, and at only 53 calories per serving, this orange-fleshed melon is a nutritional powerhouse. Here is a snapshot of the nutritional content one cup of cantaloupe contains.

  • Fiber: 1g
  • Fat: 0g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Cholesterol: 0
  • Vitamin C: 64-80% of the RDI
  • Vitamin A: 29-100% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 243mg
  • Folate: 8% of the recommended RDI
  • Trace minerals, including riboflavin, calcium, beta-carotene, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6, and riboflavin

Additionally, eating cantaloupe can be beneficial for diabetics because they’re high in water content. Pairing the high water content with low carbohydrates and calories gives cantaloupes a glycemic load score of just 4. This means that cantaloupe won’t cause a diabetic’s blood sugar to spike.

A European cantaloupe cut into slices.

Here are a few more health reasons to love cantaloupes.

  • Supports healthy immune function
  • Helps promote weight loss
  • Serves to decrease inflammation

To learn more about the many health benefits of cantaloupes, check out our extensive guide on this topic.

Growing the European Cantaloupe at Home

If you can find cantaloupe seedlings, seeds, or plants, you can certainly grow European cantaloupes at home.

A green, immature European cantaloupe on the vine.

Basic Planting and Growing Instructions for the European Cantaloupe

Growing cantaloupes is a long game, but the good news is that they’re super easy to grow. The main thing you need is fertile loose soil, plenty of sunlight, and lots of water.

Soil and Sunlight

Prepare your garden’s soil by tilling it and be sure that the soil drains well. If you like, you can add organic matter such as good manure. This helps ensure that your soil is rich in nutrients.

Soil pH for growing cantaloupes should be between 6 and 6.5.

If you live in a northern climate, you need to start your seeds indoors minimally four weeks before your area’s last frost date. For gardeners living further south, it’s OK to sow seeds directly into the ground. Cantaloupe also does well as a fall and early winter crop (before the first frost).

Cantaloupe plants need a lot of sunlight. Specifically, you’ll have the best results if your cantaloupe plants get between eight and ten hours of direct sunlight daily.

Watering

For most cantaloupe varieties, you need to plan to supplement rainfall so that your plants are receiving one or two inches of water every week until the fruit begins to produce. Once the fruit starts to produce, decrease your watering to half an inch per week before harvest.

Pests and Diseases

Cantaloupes are subject primarily to four pests:

  • Aphids
  • Cucumber beetles
  • Cutworms
  • Squash bugs

Some of the things you can use to control pests are diatomaceous earth, insecticidal soap, and neem oil.

Closeup of a reddish-brown squash bug, a common cantaloupe pest.
A squash bug.

Your cantaloupe plant may also be plagued by these five common plant diseases:

  • Alternaria leaf blight
  • Downy mildew
  • Fusarium wilt
  • Mosaic viruses
  • Powdery mildew

To help prevent diseases, try to avoid watering from overhead. Consider soaker hoses instead. You can also use fungicide on plants that are affected by disease.

Pruning

Ideally, your cantaloupes will be nice and large. To make sure this happens for you, prune (trim) your cantaloupe plants so that there are only two or three melons per plant. If you fail to do this, you’ll have tons of tiny cantaloupes.

Size, Spacing, and Pollination

To plant cantaloupe seeds, make holes with your finger between eighteen and twenty-four inches apart. In each hold, place two or three seeds.

When you plant cantaloupe seeds, place the seeds in the holes with the pointed side down because that’s the end from which the roots of the plant will emerge.

European cantaloupe plants are self-fertile, which means that both male and female flowers are found on every plant. Insects help to pollinate the plants.

Harvesting the European Cantaloupe

Depending on the cultivar you’re growing, cantaloupes need between sixty-five and ninety days from the time the seeds germinate before they reach full maturity.

Two European cantaloupes in a garden.

We have a comprehensive guide that goes into depth to help you know exactly how to know when a cantaloupe is ripe. Here is a quick breakdown of how to tell when your cantaloupes are ripe.

  • The fruit detaches easily from the stem.
  • A juicy and sweet cantaloupe will be tan, beige, or yellow underneath the netting.
  • Ripened cantaloupes have a low and deep sound when tapped gently.
  • Fruit is heavier than it looks once it is fully ripened.
  • It smells like cantaloupe. If you can’t smell a distinctive smell through the rind, the uncut melons may not be fully ripened.

Keep in mind that, unlike some fruits, cantaloupe does not continue to ripen once it’s been removed from the vine.

If you end up cutting into a cantaloupe only to discover that it’s not fully ripened, all is not lost. Simply cut it up and use it in that delicious cream cheese fruit dip we referenced. You can also use the cantaloupe that isn’t quite as ripe as you’d like in ice cream or sorbet.

Where to Buy the European Cantaloupe

You can sow cantaloupe seeds directly into the ground, but you’ll have a head start on harvest if you plant cantaloupe plants or cantaloupe seedlings. However, it can be challenging to find European cantaloupe seeds or plants.

If you can’t find the seeds or plants at your local nursery, check seed exchanges online. You can also sometimes find rare types of seeds on Amazon or Etsy.

If you have a hard time finding the seeds or plants you need, you can also grow the North American cantaloupe and other easy-to-find cantaloupe varieties.

Where to Buy European Cantaloupes

It’s not uncommon to find European cantaloupes in specialty markets and gourmet grocery stores. Also, keep your eyes open at your local farmer’s market.

A market display of European cantaloupe.

Wrapping up the European Cantaloupe

Are you ready to grow and enjoy the European cantaloupe? For a delicious sweet treat that is super healthy, cantaloupes are hard to beat.

To learn more about cantaloupes and muskmelons, read our other cantaloupe blog posts.