Technically, the true cantaloupe is grown only in Europe; what we see here in the supermarkets, farmers markets and roadside stands this time of year could be any of several varieties of orange-fleshed muskmelon, or "netted" melon, so named for the pattern that decorates its rind. Though 90 percent water, the muskmelon, er, cantaloupe is a pleasant source of vitamins A and C.
Look closely; the net pattern should be raised slightly and the background should be a cream color.
Pick it up; the melon should seem heavy for its size. Press gently; there should be no soft spots although the melon should yield to slight pressure near the stem end.
Pass over those that are hard; cantaloupe does not ripen once picked. Don't bother rapping the rind; honestly, would you know what to listen for?
Locally, the best melons are available during July and August. Store uncut melon at room temperature for two to three days. Slice only what is needed, cover the remainder tightly in plastic wrap (it readily absorbs other flavors) and refrigerate. If at all possible, remove from the refrigerator about 15 minutes prior to serving to allow the chill to depart and the flavor to bloom.
A bit of freshly squeezed lime juice over slices of cantaloupe or your favorite thin slices of cured ham go nicely, of course. But if you feel like broadening your cantaloupe scope, check out the recipes after the jump.
Folic Fizz: A mocktail that kids and grownups alike will appreciate, made with strawberries, lime juice and sparkling soda.
The Mylan. Beer and tequila join forces with the essence of muddled fruit.
Poached Salmon With a Creamy Melon-Mint Sauce. It feels 10 degrees cooler just after typing that recipe title. The cantaloupe adds a touch of sweetness to a complementary sauce made with sour cream.
Farfalle With Cantaloupe and Prosciutto. A Cooking for One main course from Joe Yonan.
Early Summer Melon and Arugula Salad With Shaved Onion. Equinox chef-owner Todd Gray developed this recipe for the upcoming Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg.