Distinguished for their rich flavor and juicy texture, cantaloupes are highly nutritious melons related to pumpkins, squash and cucumbers. Cantaloupes grow on ground vines and contain hard, netted skin that protects their inner flesh. Knowing when to harvest cantaloupes is crucial because their flavor does not enhance after picking them from the vine. Picking cantaloupes too early generally makes them taste bitter or even flavorless, while harvesting cantaloupes too late leaves them mushy and watery. Inspecting cantaloupes for specific characteristics determines their maturity stage and informs gardeners about when the cantaloupes are precisely ripe enough to pick.
Examine the cantaloupe's rind, which is the color between the melon's netting. A cantaloupe's rind turns from dark green to pale yellow as the melon ripens. Yellow-gray rind is evidence that the cantaloupe is ripe.
Smell the cantaloupe for additional confirmation of the melon's ripeness. If the cantaloupe emits a sweet, strong aroma, the melon is ripe.
Examine the cantaloupe's surface netting before picking the melon from the vine. A cantaloupe's exterior netting increases and turns beige as the melon ripens. Inability to rub the netting off is also evidence that the cantaloupe is ripe.
Attempt to pull the cantaloupe from the vine. Ripe cantaloupe stems usually slip off the vine without any tugging or significant effort.
Tips & Warnings
- Refrain from watering the cantaloupe a week before picking it to increase the melon's sweetness.
- Cantaloupes are generally ripe 10 to 14 weeks after they are planted.
- Extremely soft, dark yellow rind indicates the cantaloupe is overripe.
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