Though they hail in origin from Africa, India and Iran, cantaloupes take their name from the Italian city of Cantalupo, one of the first places in Europe where they were cultivated. As members of the Cucurbitaceae family, they're related to summer squash, pumpkins, watermelon and cucumbers. The melons called "cantaloupe" in Europe are different from "cantaloupes" here in the United States, as we use the word to describe what is actually a "muskmelon" -- a branch of the Cucurbits that displays a raised netting on a grayish-beige skin. Cantaloupes love heat, so you can find them here in the Northeast during the summer.
* Choose cantaloupes that are heavy for their size and have a sweet, fruity fragrance at the end where the plant's flower blossom used to be.
* Before cutting, always wash the skin to remove any dirt or bacteria.
* Keep uncut cantaloupe away from other fruit, because melons emit a gas that speeds up the ripening of other produce.
* When storing a halved melon, leave the seeds inside to keep it fresh.
* To freeze, scoop out melon balls, spread in one layer on a baking pan, freeze until firm, and place in an airtight container. Leave a half inch of space for expansion during freezing.
RECIPE of the week:
Summer Melon Salad
The combination of melon, cucumber and mint in this salad are perfect! Add the spice of your favorite chili or hot sauce to the dressing and it gives it just the right zing!
* 1 cup cantaloupe, cut into small cubes
* 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
* 1 cup cucumbers, sliced into thin rounds
* 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled or cubed (optional)
* 1/4 cup fresh mint, leaves roughly chopped or torn
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 T. chili sauce or hot sauce of your choice (optional but we like Sriracha or Harissa!)
* 1 tsp. honey
* Freshly squeezed lemon juice
* Salt and pepper to taste
1. Mix the first five items in a bowl.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the oil with the chili/hot sauce (optional) and honey.
3. Drizzle dressing over the salad, a little at a time, tasting as you go. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Toss to combine.