Cucumis Melo ~ Cantaloupe ~ Honeydew ~ Rock Melon Plant Care Guide
Cantaloupe (also canteloupe, cantaloup, mushmelon, muskmelon, rockmelon, sweet melon, Persian melon, spanspek (South Africa), or Garma گرما) refers to a variety of Cucumis melo, a species in the family Cucurbitaceae. Cantaloupes range in size from 500 g to 5 kg (1 to 10 lb). Originally, cantaloupe referred only to the non-netted, orange-fleshed melons of Europe. However, in more recent usage, it has come to mean any orange-fleshed melon (C. melo). Cantaloupe is the most popular variety of melon in the United States.
Muskmelon (Cucumis melo) is a species of melon that has been developed into many cultivated varieties. These include smooth skinned varieties such as honeydew, crenshaw and casaba, and different netted cultivars (cantaloupe, Persian melon and Santa Claus or Christmas melon). The Armenian cucumber is also a variety of muskmelon, but its shape, taste, and culinary uses more closely resemble those of a cucumber. The large number of cultivars in this species approaches that found in wild cabbage, though morphological variation is not as extensive. It is a fruit of a type called pepo. Muskmelon is native to Persia (Iran), Anatolia, Armenia, and adjacent areas on the west and the east which is believed to be their center of origin and development, with a secondary center including the northwest provinces of India and Afghanistan. Although truly wild forms of C. melo have not been found, several related wild species have been noted in those regions.
The name is derived, via French, from the Italian Cantalupo which was formerly a papal county seat near Rome. Tradition has it that this is where it was first cultivated in Europe, on its introduction from Ancient Armenia. Its first known usage in English dates from 1739 in The Gardeners Dictionary Vol. II by Scottish botanist Philip Miller (1691–1771).
Botanical name: Cucumis melo
Plant type: Fruit
Sun exposure: Full Sun
Soil type: Sandy
Soil pH: Slightly Acidic to Neutral
What we commonly refer to as ‘cantaloupe’ is actually not true cantaloupe, rather, a type of muskmelon. (True cantaloupe has a rough, warty rind and is not widely grown or commercially available in the US.) Muskmelons are a heat-loving fruit with a long growing season. Their cultural and growing requirements are very similar to other melons. They have a net-like, tan rind, and sweet orange flesh. The names muskmelon and cantaloupe are used interchangeably. We will use the name cantaloupe for this page to avoid confusion.
- Amend soil with aged manure or compost before planting.
- Growing the vines in raised rows, known as hills, ensures good drainage and will hold the sun’s heat longer.
- If you are in a cooler zone, start seeds indoors about a month before transplanting. Cantaloupe vines are very tender and should not be transplanted until all danger of frost has passed.
- If you live in warmer climes, you can direct sow seeds outdoors, but wait until the soil temperature warms to at least 65 degrees to avoid poor germination. Plant seeds one inch deep, 18 inches apart, in hills about 3 feet apart.
- If you have limited space, vines can be trained to a support such as a trellis.
- Cantaloupe likes loamy, well-drained soil. Handle them gently when you transplant. Add lots of compost to the area before planting and after planting.
- Mulching with black plastic will serve multiple purposes: it will warm the soil, hinder weed growth and keep developing fruits clean.
- Fertilize when vines start growing.
- Row covers are a good idea to keep pests at bay.
- While melon plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Water in the morning, and try to avoid wetting the leaves. Reduce watering once fruit are growing. Dry weather produces the sweetest melon.
- If you’ve had an exceptional amount of rainfall during the ripening stage, this could cause the bland fruit.
- Once fruit begins to grow, prune end buds off vines. Your plants may produce fewer melons, but they will be larger and of better quality.
- Vines produce male and female flowers separately on the same plant. They often begin producing male flowers several weeks before the females appear. (Don’t be discouraged when the first blooms do not produce fruit.)
- Blossoms require pollination to set fruit, so be kind to the bees!
- When rinds begin to change from green to tan or yellow, the melon is probably ripe, but be careful not to pick too early.
- Look for a crack in the stem where it attaches to the fruit. This is a sign of ripeness as well. The fruit should be easy to separate from the vine, but if they fall off by themselves they are usually overripe.
- Harvest melon when vines are dry, and be careful not to damage them.
- They will soften after harvesting, but will not continue to sweeten off the vine.
- Cantaloupe can be stored uncut for 5 or 6 days. If cut, they can last in the refrigerator for about 3 days, wrapped tightly in plastic.
- ‘Hale’s Best Jumbo’ 80-90 days to maturity. Produces 3-pound, aromatic melons.
- ‘Minnesota Midget’ 70-80 days. Early variety suited for Northern gardens. Produces 1-pound, sweetly flavored melons.
- ‘Bush Star’ 90 days to maturity. Bush variety suits gardeners with limited space.
- ‘Ambrosia’ 85 days to maturity. Among the sweetest varieties.
- Fresh Cantaloupe in Lime-Yogurt-Cardamom Dressing
- Tropical Seafood and Melon Brochettes
- Fruit Soup
- my own tip ~ great in fruit smoothies with vanilla ice cream or vanilla yogurt, yummy. you can chunk out melon and freeze for smoothies over winter months
Wit & Wisdom
Cantaloupe was named for Cantalupo, a former papal villa near Rome.
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