When the weather starts to warm with the first hints of summer, it’s hard to resist the urge to fill your shopping cart with your favorite summer fruit. While it’s easy to tell if strawberries or raspberries are ready to eat, it’s a little trickier to figure out cantaloupes. But you’re in luck! We’ve compiled this handy list of how to tell if cantaloupe is ripe.
It’s important to follow these indications carefully, because unlike other fruit, once a cantaloupe has been pulled from the vine, it can no longer ripen. That means you have to choose wisely, whether you’re picking the fruit from the plant, or at your local grocery store.
How to Tell If Cantaloupe is Ripe: Six Different Ways!
Unlike fruits like mangos and bananas, once a cantaloupe is detached from its stem, its flavor will no longer change. So if you’re picking the fruit yourself, harvesting a cantaloupe at the correct time is the most important step to guaranteeing the perfect ripeness.
A cantaloupe in a warm garden with fertile soil will take around thirty days to grow and ripen from the moment flowers bloom along the vine, and in a cooler climate it might take up to forty five days.
When the time has come, the easiest way to tell if cantaloupe is ripe while it’s still on the vine is to test how attached the stem is to the fruit. You should pick the cantaloupe up and gently twist its stem. If it detaches easily, then that’s the plant telling you that you’ve got yourself a sweet, juicy cantaloupe! If the stem resists, then it’s probably not ready yet, and you should try again a couple of days later.
2. The Look
If you’re not growing cantaloupes in your own backyard, not to worry! We have more tips for those of you who need to know how to tell if cantaloupe is ripe while perusing through the fruit department at grocery stores.
The easiest indicator to assess is the cantaloupe’s look. If the fruit’s rind is green, that means that it’s unripe. A sweet and juicy cantaloupe will have a yellow, beige, or tan hue beneath its netted texture. A small discoloration, however, is fine: that’s probably the side where the cantaloupe rested on the ground while it was still attached to the vine.
Next you should check the side of the cantaloupe where the stem would have been attached. It should have a little smooth depression. If, instead, the indent looks flat, then this is a sign that the cantaloupe might not be ripe yet.
If you’ve already purchased the cantaloupe and cut it open, another indicator that you’ve made the right choice is if the fruit is a bright orange color.
3. The Stem
Though perhaps it might seem obvious given the information we presented in the Harvesting section, it’s worth reiterating that if a cantaloupe still has its stem (or part of its stem) attached to the fruit, then it was harvested before its time. A ripe cantaloupe will easily come off the vine, and should have no part of its stem still stuck to its bottom.
Another trick for how to tell if cantaloupe is ripe is to press against the stem indentation with your thumb or nail. The small indentation should be firm but not too hard, nor too soft. The former means the fruit isn’t ripe yet, and the latter means the fruit may be too mature.
4. The Sound
Though the next step might seem silly, it’s vital for how to tell if cantaloupe is ripe. You should pick the fruit up and knock on its rind (like you would knock on a front door). If the resulting sound is high and hollow, the fruit is likely to be unripe. But if the sound is low and deep, then you’ve got yourself a winner!
5. The Feel
A perfectly ripe cantaloupe should feel heavier than it looks, and firm to the touch. People often compare the firmness of a ripe cantaloupe to that of a pineapple—if it feels more like a watermelon, chances are it should have been left on the vine a little longer!
If you thought knocking on a cantaloupe and listening to its sound was silly, this next suggestion might make you laugh out loud, but we promise it’s worth it! Next time you’re trying to determine the ripeness of a cantaloupe, you should pick it up and shake it around a bit. If you feel seeds rattling within, you can rest assured that your cantaloupe will be sweet and juicy. If there’s no movement whatsoever, you should move on to the next contestant.
You can also conduct the same pressure test we suggested for the stem indentation on the blossom end, which is on the opposite side of the fruit. If the button shape is too hard, then the cantaloupe isn’t mature yet. If it’s firm but gives way a little bit, that’s a good sign!
6. The Smell
Another easy way to tell if cantaloupe is ripe is the smell it gives off. You should give the blossom end of the fruit (the same side you just pressure tested) a good sniff. A ripe cantaloupe will smell sweet, floral, and musky. If the scent is very faint or if there’s no smell at all, then the fruit is not ripe yet.
If instead there is an overpowering scent similar to alcohol or acetone, that means the cantaloupe is fermenting and too old to be eaten. Steer clear!
What to Do If You Buy an Unripe Cantaloupe
If you accidentally bring home an unripe cantaloupe and only realize the predicament once you have cut and tasted it, we have some hopeful news for you. Though as mentioned above the flavor won’t change once a cantaloupe has been picked from the vine, you can make it softer and juicier by leaving it in a sealed container longer than three to four days.
If you realize this before cutting into the fruit, your best bet is to leave it on the counter at room temperature for a while longer.
Now that you’ve learned how tell if cantaloupe is ripe, you’re armed with the knowledge to find the perfect summer snack.
In the meantime, if you’ve come across some confusion regarding the various types of cantaloupes out there, you might want to check out our North American Cantaloupe post, and explore our cantaloupe blog for more information on our favorite melon. Happy hunting!