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How to Tell if Cantaloupe is Ripe

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.

Cantaloupes hanging.  In order to to harvest at the right time, you have to know how to tell if cantaloupe is ripe.

How to Tell If Cantaloupe is Ripe: Six Different Ways!

1. Harvesting

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.

Woman holding a cantaloupe on the vine.

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.

Person holding a cantaloupe that still has a length of the stem attached to it.

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!

Person selecting a cantaloupe from a pile of harvested melons.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does a ripe cantaloupe last after being cut?

A ripe cantaloupe lasts for about 3-4 days in the refrigerator after being cut. Store it in an airtight container to maintain freshness and prevent it from absorbing odors from other foods.

2. Can you ripen an unripe cantaloupe in a paper bag or with other fruits?

Unripe cantaloupes won’t ripen further once picked, so placing them in a paper bag or with other fruits won’t make a significant difference in their ripeness.

3. How do I store a ripe cantaloupe to keep it fresh?

Store ripe, uncut cantaloupe at room temperature for up to 5 days. Once cut, refrigerate it in an airtight container for 3-4 days to preserve freshness.

4. Is there a difference in ripeness indicators between different cantaloupe varieties?

Most cantaloupe varieties share similar ripeness indicators, such as color, smell, and texture. However, slight differences may exist depending on the specific variety, so it’s important to research your chosen type.

5. How can I pick the best cantaloupe at a farmer’s market?

At a farmer’s market, choose cantaloupes with a beige or tan rind, a sweet and musky aroma, and a slightly soft stem end. Make sure the melon feels heavy for its size and has no visible soft spots.

6. Are there any health benefits to eating ripe cantaloupe?

Ripe cantaloupe is rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, and antioxidants, making it a nutritious addition to your diet. These nutrients support eye health, immune function, and overall wellness.

7. Can I still use an unripe cantaloupe in recipes, and will the taste be affected?

While you can use unripe cantaloupe in recipes, the taste will be less sweet and flavorful. Cooking methods such as grilling or roasting may help enhance the flavor, but the fruit won’t fully ripen.

8. Is it safe to eat cantaloupe if it has started to ferment?

Eating fermented cantaloupe isn’t recommended, as it may cause digestive discomfort or foodborne illness. If it smells like alcohol or acetone, discard the fruit.

9. What are some creative ways to enjoy ripe cantaloupe, beyond eating it fresh?

Enjoy ripe cantaloupe in smoothies, salads, and salsas, or grill it for a caramelized treat. You can also blend it into cold soups or use it as a topping for yogurt and granola.

10. How can I grow my own cantaloupes and ensure that they ripen properly?

To grow cantaloupes, plant them in a sunny, well-drained location and provide plenty of water and nutrients. Monitor the ripeness using the tips provided in the blog post, and harvest when the stem detaches easily from the fruit.

In Conclusion

Now that you’ve learned how tell if cantaloupe is ripe, you’re armed with the knowledge to find the perfect summer snack.

Excited for more cantaloupe content? Then check out my cantaloupe page for growing tips, info guides, recipes, and more!

Woman examining a cantaloupe for harvesting.