When harvesting cantaloupe, the most important factor is determining that the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked. If you pick cantaloupe too early, it won't be as sweet and the flesh won't be very tender. If you wait too long to pick it, the flesh will be too soft and mealy.
Don't water your cantaloupe plants the last week or so before harvesting them. This will allow the plant to concentrate the sugars and make for sweeter melons.
There are a few things to look for to determine if your cantaloupe is ready for harvest. First, look at the color of the melon. There is a netting pattern that covers the second layer of rind. Look through the netting to determine what color is underneath. If it looks green behind the netting, the cantaloupe is not ready for harvest. If the rind behind the netting is a yellow or cream color, the melon is ready to be picked.
If the rind has turned creamy yellow, it's time to smell the cantaloupe. Put your nose right down to the blossom end and take a whiff. There should be a musky odor emanating from the melon. If you don't smell anything, the melon is probably not ready to be picked. This musky odor is why some people refer to cantaloupes as "musk melons".
Finally, to determine the right time for harvesting watermelon, inspect the appearance of the the stem. A crack should appear that goes around the entire base of the stem. The melon should easily slip off the vine where this crack occurs. Press gently on the stem to see if the melon detaches. If it slips off, the melon was ready to be picked. If the melon resists slipping off the vine, let it sit for another day and check it again.
After harvesting cantaloupe, store the whole melons in the refrigerator. They will last for up to a week. Cut cantaloupe will last for 4-5 days before starting to go bad. If you have lots of melons and have no hope of eating them all, you can always freeze them for later use in cool drinks, smoothies or soups. Simply remove the seeds and rind and cut the melons into bite-sized pieces. You can also use a melon baller to cut up the cantaloupe. Store the cut pieces in an air-tight bag in the freezer. They will last for up to 6 months.
When they are done producing, you can remove the cantaloupe vines from your garden and add them to your compost pile.
Now that you know about harvesting cantaloupe, it's time for a few of our favorite recipes that feature cantaloupe.
Click here for some of our favorite cantaloupe recipes
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