When and How to Harvest Cantaloupe, the Sweetest Garden Candy

When and How to Harvest Cantaloupe, the Sweetest Garden Candy

Is there anything tastier than a juicy, soft-yet-firm piece of cantaloupe unfurling its delightful flavor on your tongue?

Of course not!

A vertical close up picture of a Cucumis melo ripening on the vine, with characteristic netted flesh, pictured on a soft focus background in light filtered sunshine. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white text.planting and growing this tasty melon.

Maybe your melons are looking more and more mature every day and you’re not sure when to harvest them.

If that’s the case, you’re in the right place, because today we’re going to talk about when and how to harvest this delicious melon ( var. ).

Here’s what I’ll cover:

When to Harvest Cantaloupe

This sun-loving fruit takes about 65-90 days from germination to reach maturity – depending on the variety – and when you consider the size and complexity of a melon, that’s impressive.

So depending on your USDA Hardiness Zone and the cultivar you are growing, you might be harvesting melons as early as June, while others may have to wait until late August.

A close up of three melons with distinctive width=”800″>

You don’t want to harvest your cantaloupes too early or they won’t be sweet enough, like the inexplicably named honeydew (sorry, honeydew lovers out there!). And if you wait too long, they’ll get mealy and squishy. Yuck.

If you do harvest a slightly unripe melon, it continue to soften, but the sugar content of the fruit will not increase, so it won’t be quite as sweet as it would if it had ripened on the vine.

A vertical picture of a Cucumis melo hanging from the vine, with characteristic Check your seed packet or your garden planner to determine when they’re about a week away from their due date, and at that point, reduce irrigation. You want to water just enough to prevent the vines from wilting.

This will allow the sugars to concentrate in the flesh of the fruit, and prevent the fruit from splitting.

A close up of two freshly harvested, ripe Cucumis melo set on a wooden surface with vines in soft focus in the background.Virginia Cooperative Extension, for the best flavor, muskmelons should be harvested at a stage known as “full slip.”

This is when the stem separates easily from the fruit, without twisting or pulling. For a longer shelf life, they can be harvested at the “half slip” stage which is when there is a slight depression at the stem end, though the flavor may be compromised.

How to Harvest

It’s unbelievably easy to harvest a ripe cantaloupe.

If you live in a colder growing zone and have to work hard to keep the melon warm enough all summer like I do, this is the cantaloupe’s crowning gift – aside from its sweet flesh, of course.

A close up of Cucumis melo growing in containers in a greenhouse, with the fruits hanging from the vines, supported by string.from our sister site, Foodal.

And don’t feel ashamed for not knowing how to cut up a bulky melon!

Back when I was in college, I bought an onion for a dish I was cooking in my illicit dorm-room kitchen (a mini crock pot) which I used often to avoid greasy cafeteria food. I got a knife out, looked at the onion, and balked.

Even though I’d grown up helping my parents cook, I’d somehow never peeled and cut an onion.

Go ahead, laugh at me. But those of you who are hesitant about slicing into your beautiful garden-grown melons can rest assured that you’re not alone.

A close up of a hand from the left of the frame slicing a bright orange melon. The other half of the fruit is set on a plastic tray on a wooden surface.Recipes and Cooking Ideas

Most of us probably love eating cantaloupe all by itself, fresh off the rind. But it also makes a perfect substitute for mango in this recipe for strawberry mango smoothie, from our sister site, Foodal (does that not sound absolutely refreshing and amazing?).

A close up of two glasses set on a wooden surface with a freshly made strawberry mango smoothie.Photo by Raquel Smith.

For something really different, you can even make cantaloupe bread by substituting freshly grated melon for zucchini in this zucchini bread recipe, also on Foodal.

I will most definitely be making cantaloupe bread when these little guys mature at the end of the summer:

A close up of a hand from the right of the frame holding a small green seedling tray up to a sunny window.Photo by Laura Melchor.

Or what about a no-churn mango, lime, and cream cheese sherbet?

Switch out the mango pieces for your frozen chunks and prepare for a taste sensation. It’s perfect for cooling you down on a hot summer’s day. You can find the recipe over at Foodal.

A vertical picture of a small ceramic bowl with a fresh homemade mango, lime, and cream cheese sherbet, set on a cork board on a wooden surface.Photo by Raquel Smith.

If you want to get adventurous with a sweet salsa but don’t care for mangoes (guilty!), chop the cantaloupe up into small pieces and toss it into your favorite salsa recipe.

With a pinch of creative thinking, there’s so much you can do with this tasty fruit.

A Happily Harvested Melon

Now that you know how easy it is to harvest your cantaloupes, sit back, relax, and watch them mature.

A vertical picture of Cucumis melo growing in the garden, with the fruits ripening on the vine, surrounded by foliage fading to soft focus in the background.growing tasty fruits in your garden next:

Laura Melchor

Laura Melchor grew up helping her mom in the garden in Montana, and as an adult she’s brought her cold-weather gardening skills with her to her home in Alaska. She’s especially proud of the flowerbeds she and her three-year-old son built with rocks dug up from their little Alaska homestead. As a freelance writer, she contributes to several websites and blogs across the web. Laura also writes novels and holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

“When and How to Harvest Cantaloupe, the Sweetest Garden Candy” was first posted here

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