Muskmelon may be more familiar to you by their common varietal names. Late summer and early fall are the time when they are most abundant (and some say most flavorful) in markets, but there are versions available all year long.
Muskmelons include many varieties of melon--casaba, honeydew, Spanish, Persian, and Crenshaw are just a few examples. Their flesh may be pale yellow, green or orange and their skin ranges from smooth to netted.
Originating in Persia, the melon is named for its fragrant aroma and shape. Columbus is credited for bringing the seeds to the New World.
In America, the most popular muskmelon is the cantaloupe, which has thick, tan-colored, netted rind and ripe flesh of a brilliant orange color. To eat it, wash the rind, cut the melon in half and remove the seeds, then either use the rind to contain the flesh or cut the rind away, but do not consume the rind.
Most of the cantaloupe we eat today come from California growers located in the Imperial Valley. Their melons are grown from special disease-resistant strains.
A good flavor depends on how the sugars develop inside the melon. It is time to pick when the vine separates easily from the melon; it is time to buy when you can smell the sweet aroma of the melon coming through the flesh.