Named for a castle in Italy, the true cantaloupe is a European melon that is not exported. American "cantaloupes" are actually muskmelons (see melon). When perfectly ripe, these cantaloupes have a raised netting on a smooth grayish-beige skin. The pale orange flesh is extremely juicy and sweet. Choose cantaloupes that are heavy for their size, have a sweet, fruity fragrance, a thick, well-raised netting and yield slightly to pressure at the blossom end. The stem end should be smooth and not jagged, the latter a sign that the fruit was underripe when picked. Avoid melons with soft spots or an overly strong odor. Store unripe cantaloupes at room temperature, ripe melons in the refrigerator. Cantaloupes easily absorb other food odors so if refrigerating for more than a day or two, wrap the melon in plastic wrap. Just before serving, cut melon in half and remove the seeds. Cantaloupe is an excellent source of vitamins A and C.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.