Everyone seems to have an opinion on the honeydew vs. cantaloupe debate. With their sweet, supple flesh and high water content, both muskmelons evoke the flavors and traditions of thirst-quenching summers, but there are certainly some differences between the two.
Let’s set opinions aside for a moment and dive into the facts!
Are Honeydew and Cantaloupe Related?
Yes! Honeydew and cantaloupe are both muskmelon species. The scientific term for muskmelon is cucumis melo, and the classification includes members of the cucumber family in addition to warm-weather melons.
What’s that, you say? Honeydew and cantaloupe are related to cucumbers? Yes, it’s true! Although muskmelons have a muskier fragrance and sweeter flavor than cucumbers, they’re all technically part of the gourd family (a.k.a. Cucurbitaceae). You may also see them referred to as “vine vegetables,” which is worth noting since we all consider melons like honeydew and cantaloupe fruit.
Aside from that surprising fact, honeydew and cantaloupe are so closely related that there’s even a hybrid species born of the two. The Galia melon is a delicious cross, resulting in the light-green flesh of honeydew and the netted rind of a cantaloupe. It has an unusual banana-like flavor profile and tropical aroma that pairs perfectly with fruit salads and chilled desserts.
But back to the honeydew vs. cantaloupe discussion: overall, the melons have more similarities than differences. Let’s dive into the specifics.
All About Honeydew
Like most melons, honeydew originally hails from the Middle East. Its exact origins have been lost to history, but we do know the sweet melon was an ancient Middle Eastern staple. In fact, ancient Egyptians considered them sacred.
Honeydew had made its way to Europe by the late 15th century where it was cultivated year-round in greenhouses. It was such a precious commodity that Christopher Columbus and Spanish explorers carried seeds with them during expeditions to North America.
Compared to cantaloupe, honeydew lacks the musky odor for which muskmelons are named. Honeydew is characterized by its slightly oval shape, smooth rind, and pale green flesh, all of which differ from the cantaloupe.
The peak season for honeydew is from late summer to early fall. When growing honeydew, you’ll notice the melons have a somewhat fuzzy texture. This is actually a great clue as to when they’re ready to pick! Honeydew loses that fuzziness in favor of a smooth, waxy surface when ripe, so you know when it’s harvest time.
There are two main varieties of honeydew: white and yellow. Ripe white honeydew should have an off-white rind color with pale green undertones. Yellow honeydew has a golden-hued rind. With either variety, the interior flesh will be a richer green color with a firm but juicy texture and honey-sweet flavor.
Although honeydew is the third most popular melon coming in behind watermelon and cantaloupe, it’s the sweetest melon available. So, if you have a serious sweet tooth, the honeydew is the perfect fruit to enjoy!
In the United States, California produces the most honeydew melons thanks to the ideal climate in the Imperial and San Joaquin Valleys. Arizona is the second-largest honeydew producer.
China has a regionally famous honeydew variety called the Bailan melon. It’s a heavy honeydew featuring a white rind often tinted with subtle orange or yellow undertones. The honeydew was supposedly introduced to China in the 1940s by Vice President Henry A. Wallace.
All About Cantaloupe
Although its origins are obscure, cantaloupe likely originated in India or Persia. We do know that ancient Egyptians, Romans, and the Greeks enjoyed the popular melon, and that cantaloupe made its way to Europe during the 15th century—the same as honeydew.
As early as the 1st century, cantaloupe was a hot commodity in China. Over time, Chinese farmers cultivated oriental thin-skin cantaloupes. The result is today’s Hami melon or “China rock melon,” which is similar to traditional cantaloupe aside from the oblong shape.
Columbus brought cantaloupe to the Americas along with honeydew, and by the 1890s, muskmelon was a staple commercial crop in the US.
Here’s where things get a bit tricky. True, original cantaloupe isn’t actually what we refer to cantaloupe here in the States. In fact, you probably wouldn’t recognize a true cantaloupe if you saw one in the produce section. That’s because these melons, which are commonly called European cantaloupe, have a pale green, unnetted rind with noticeably darker vein tracts running down the surface.
North American cantaloupes are technically “reticulated muskmelons,” and while all cantaloupes are muskmelons, not all muskmelons are cantaloupes. Most of us recognize US cantaloupes by their textured rind that resembles webbing or netting.
Whatever you want to call the melon that we call cantaloupe here in the US, a ripe melon has a distinctive, pleasing aroma so you know it’s ready to eat. Cantaloupes also have a slightly earlier season than honeydew, peaking in flavor from June through August.
Did you know that American cantaloupes are the most popular type of melon in the United States? If you’re invited to a summer barbecue, chances are, cubed cantaloupe is on the menu!
The majority of cantaloupes in the US are grown in California, Arizona, and Texas. Like honeydew, cantaloupe grows the best in hot climates.
The name “cantaloupe” comes from the town Cantalupo, Italy, where the melon was originally cultivated in Europe during the 1700s.
Unlike many fruits, cantaloupe only ripens on the vine. It won’t continue to ripen after you pick it. When harvesting cantaloupes yourself, you’ll know they’re ready to pick if they slip off the vine easily.
Difference Between Honeydew and Cantaloupe
When comparing honeydew vs. cantaloupe, there are a few things to consider.
While similar, honeydew and cantaloupe have different nutritional properties. According to Healthline.com, both are comprised of 90% water with zero grams of fat, one gram of protein, and one gram of fiber in a 3.5-ounce serving.
That same serving of honeydew has thirty-six calories compared to thirty-four calories in cantaloupe. Cantaloupe has slightly fewer carbs, offering eight grams per serving to honeydew’s nine grams.
Cantaloupe also offers more vitamins. The muskmelon boasts 68% of the recommended daily value (DV) of Vitamin A as well as 61% Vitamin C. Honeydew only offers 1% of the DV Vitamin A and 30% of the DV Vitamin C.
Despite these slight differences, both honeydew and cantaloupe boast antioxidant properties that boost immunity and help fight disease.
The downside of cantaloupe? It has a higher risk of bacterial contamination, including E. coli and salmonella. While honeydew has a higher sugar content, it’s less likely to be tainted by harmful bacteria. As such, pregnant women and those with immune deficiencies may want to avoid eating cantaloupe, especially precut cantaloupe.
It’s worth noting that although honeydew melon is higher in carbs and sugar, its fiber content makes it a great choice for people with diabetes. That’s because honeydew’s nutritional profile can help regulate blood sugar over time, so eat up!
So, what about the flavor of honeydew vs. cantaloupe? Both have a similar texture, but honeydew is a little bit sweeter and firmer. Ripe cantaloupe is softer and mildly sweet. That slight difference in sweetness and texture makes for a delicious fruit salad pairing.
Since honeydew and cantaloupe are so similar, you can substitute one for the other in most recipes. Keep in mind, however, that honeydew is sweeter than cantaloupe, so you’ll want to use the melon best suited to your personal taste preferences.
Recipes with Honeydew and Cantaloupe
Ready to experiment with honeydew vs. cantaloupe? We’ve curated some tasty recipes worth trying this summer!
A simple honey-melon salad with basil is a refreshing way to enjoy the tastes and textures of both melons. Pair cubed honeydew and cantaloupe with honey, lemon juice, and some spices for a refreshing treat!
Feeling a bit more ambitious? Try this cucumber melon spa salad, which utilizes a spiralizer and melon baller to create a mock pasta that’s sure to impress your guests.
When in doubt, pair honeydew and cantaloupe with goat cheese. This goat cheese-stuffed fig, melon, and prosciutto salad pairs with a delicious vinaigrette to draw out all the flavors of summer.
Prefer a more kid-friendly recipe? You can’t go wrong with melon sorbet!
To take advantage of melon’s amazing antioxidant and disease-fighting benefits, start your day with a cantaloupe or honeydew smoothie. You can experiment with your own sweeteners and different kinds of milk (dates and almond milk are a great combination), and add oats for additional fiber.
Settling the Honeydew vs. Cantaloupe Question
So, honeydew vs. cantaloupe? Which one is the best? Our answer is simple: why not both? Both melons are incredibly delicious, healthy, and offer subtle differences that keep recipes interesting all summer long. It all boils down to personal preference.
What’s your opinion on the honeydew vs. cantaloupe debate? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!
Excited for more cantaloupe content? Then check out my cantaloupe page for growing tips, info guides, recipes, and more!