The melon manual
Pick out and serve up the perfect cantaloupe this season.
Some shake them. Some smell them. Some grab them and go.
Many Hoosiers have picking the perfect cantaloupe down to a science. And the professionals at Melon Acres in Oaktown have their own secrets for picking melons at their peak.
Third-generation owner Autumn Freeman swears by the perfect golden color of the rind that mature melons reach in early July. She cautions melon-lovers to steer clear of any orange-hued varieties.
Long-time employee Norm Conde claims "a ripe cantaloupe should have a complete and hexagonal stem scar at the end." This shows that the cantaloupe slipped naturally from the vine and was not harvested prematurely. Thankfully the sandy southwest Indiana soil provides perfect conditions for melons to ripen fully.
Once you've found the perfect cantaloupe, how do you store it? Place it in a brown paper bag if you like your melon slightly overripe, say Freeman and Conde, but never keep it in the fridge. This can slow the ripening so drastically that your melon may rot before it reaches peak sweetness and maturity.
Another melon sin? Salting its sweet insides. Although some enjoy the salty taste, Freeman and Conde say this masks the natural sweetness. The owners of the state's largest produce farm, which produced 1.6 million cantaloupes last year, suggest slicing and eating it at room temperature. Or if it were up to them, straight off the vine.
You can purchase these Indiana-grown cantaloupes at local Kroger and Marsh stores or at the two Melon Acres farm stands in Oaktown and Terre Haute.
Try original owner Abner Horrall's go-to summer treat:
Cantaloupe Ice Cream Bowls
- 1 small- to medium-sized cantaloupe
- 2-3 scoops of vanilla ice cream
- Cut the cantaloupe in half and scoop out the seeds so that the melon forms a small bowl
- Scoop desired amount of ice cream into cantaloupe bowl and enjoy!
If you're feeling fancy, try this recipe from the Purdue Extension:
Cantaloupe Slush with Mango:
- 1 medium-sized cantaloupe
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 mango
- Peel and seed the cantaloupe
- Cut the melon into 1-inch pieces to get an equivalent of around 6 cups
- Pour into a blender or food processor with lemon juice and honey and puree until very smooth
- Pour the mixture into a shallow 9-by-12-inch glass pan and set in the freezer for two hours
- With a fork, chip and stir the icy mixture and return it to the freezer for an additional 2-4 hours
- Peel and cut the mango into long, thin slices
- Remove the frozen cantaloupe mixture from the freezer and chip it with a fork until it resembles shaved ice
- Spoon cantaloupe mixture into bowls, top with mango slices and serve