Wonderfully delicious and unique musky-flavored cantaloupe or “muskmelon” is a member in the large Cucurbitaceae family. Some of the popular fruits and vegetables in the cucurbita family include squash, pumpkin, cucumber, gourd,...etc., and like its relatives, melons grow on the ground surface as a trailing vine.
Muskmelons thought to have originated either from India or ancient Persia or Africa. They grow best on well-draining sandy soil with good irrigation facility, and require honeybees for effective pollination. Melons, just as mangoes, watermelon...etc., are actually summer season fruits. Their season runs from April through August, when they are at their best.
|Net melon-Cucumis melo reticulatus, American variety.||Muskmelons- Oriental variety.|
Several varieties of cantaloupes grown all over the planet; however, two common varieties that named after their place of origin have become popular in the western world. The European cantaloupe (Cucumis melo cantalupensis) derives its name from the Italian papal village of "Cantalup" and features lightly-ribbed, pale green skin that looks quite different from the North American cantaloupe. Galia melon and charentais belong to this category. North American cantaloupe (Cucumis melo reticulatus), popular in the United States and in some parts of Canada, is named reticulatus due to its net-like (or reticulated) skin covering. Honeydew melons have sweet, characteristic pale green succulent flesh.
In general, melons feature round or oblong shape, measure 4.5- 6.5 inches in diameter and weigh 450 – 850 gm, oftentimes more than a kilo. Internally, its flesh color ranges from orange-yellow to salmon, has soft consistency and juicy texture with a sweet, musky aroma that emanates best in the completely ripe fruits. At its center, there is a hollow cavity filled with small off-white color seeds encased in a web of mucilaginous netting.
Wonderfully delicious with rich flavor, muskmelons are very low in calories (100 g fruit has just 34 calories) and fats. Nonetheless, the fruit is rich in numerous health promoting poly-phenolic plant derived compounds, vitamins, and minerals that are absolute for optimum health.
The fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin A, (100 g provides 3382 IU or about 112% of recommended daily levels) one of the highest among cucurbita fruits. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant and is essential for healthy vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin A has been known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
It is also rich in antioxidant flavonoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidants have the ability to help protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen-free radicals and hence; offer protection against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.
Total antioxidant strength measured in terms of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of cantaloupe melons is 315 µmol TE/100 g. The value for honeydew melon is 241 µmol TE/100 g.
Zea-xanthin, an important dietary carotenoid, selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eye where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective UV light-filtering functions. It, thus, offers protection of eyes from "Age-related macular degeneration" (ARMD) disease in the elderly.
It is a moderate source of electrolyte, potassium. 100 g fruit provides 267 mg of this electrolyte. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids and helps control heart rate and blood pressure. It thus offers protection against stroke, and coronary heart diseases.
The fruit also contains moderate levels of B-complex vitamins, such as niacin, pantothenic acid and vitamin C, and minerals like manganese. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Commercially, muskmelons are being used to extract an enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), which plays a vital role as strong first-line antioxidant defenses inside the human body.
Cantaloupes best grow during the summer months. In the markets, try to buy organically produced muskmelons since they are richer in taste as well as in nutrients.
Oftentimes, it could be difficult to judge the ripeness and taste without checking out a wedge section of the melon. Look for one that feel heavy for its size with a clean rind, that is neither overly shiny nor lusterless, without any cuts or bruises on the surface, which might have occurred while transporting the fruit.
At home, place them in cool, well-ventilated
place. Cut sections, however, should be kept inside the refrigerator.
Cantaloupe outer surface may harbor harmful salmonella bacteria, especially at areas of minor cracks and cuts. Therefore, wash the whole fruit in cold running water thoroughly before consumption.
Depending upon the size you desire, the fruit can be sliced, cubed or scooped into balls.
|Beautiful muskmelon sections!||Honeydew melon balls!
Photo courtesy: sethbaur
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh cantaloupe should be eaten as it is without any additions in order to experience its delicious, natural taste.
The fruit sections are a great addition to fruit salad.
Cantaloupes can be added in the desserts, with ice-cream, or custard.
Muskmelons have no known reported cases of allergic reactions, and may be safely eaten during pregnancy and in nursing mothers. However, being a member of cucurbita, some fruits may carry cucurbitacin toxin. It is therefore, unripe/bitter tasting melons should be avoided. (Medical disclaimer).
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Visit here for very informative pages on:-
Research articles on nutrition.
Further Reading and Resources:
2. Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.
3. Muskmelon-University of Kentucky -PDF.