How to Tell if a Cantaloupe is Ripe

Standing in the grocery store aisle, I overheard another customer ask one of the customer service people in produce how to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe.  I don’t know, said the clerk.  I think you tap on it and if it sounds hollow it is ripe. He was not correct.  Well, not completely incorrect, but the method he was offering is definitely not the best method for checking the ripeness of a cantaloupe. This is not the first time I have heard this question asked, and I rarely hear the correct answer.

I grew up on a small farm.  Although it wasn’t huge, we grew  many things.  One of these many things was cantaloupe.  In late summer early fall when the sun was still hot, I would run up my parent’s driveway after school, grab a couple of melons, take them into the house, and eat them warm, straight off the vine.  There was nothing more sweet and delicious, the sunny orange flesh nearly melting in my mouth.  My mother had learned to grow cantaloupes (also known as muskmelons) from another small time grower, who probably learned the same way.  Via anecdote, the growth and ripening of the plants traveled to the side of our hill, south facing and perfect for cantaloupes.

The best way to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe is to smell the small circle at the base of the melon where the stem used to be.  If it smells sweet and delicious, the melon is ripe and ready to go.  The thing about cantaloupes is that once they are taken from the vine, they are only ripe a very short time before they break down and decompose. This means that a lot of time in the stores, none of the melons will have this smell.  This is because none of them are ripe. They can’t pick them ripe because they would never make the journey to the store in time. If you find a melon with this sweet smell, eat it within a couple or three days, or it will be moldy before you know it.  Although, as is often the case with fruits and vegetables, you can lengthen the time until they are too ripe by putting them into the refrigerator.

The other way to tell a cantaloupe is on its way to ripe is the color.  Cantaloupes are covered with funny beige lines that look like sea coral.  Underneath, if the melon isn’t ripe, it is a sagey, greenish color.  Once it ripens, the entire melon turns beige to match the funny lines.  A melon without the sweet smell but colored all over that cantaloupe beige color will be ripe very soon.  These ones are your best bet if you aren’t planning to eat your melon right away.

What it is it about thumping that so many people find useful?  When melons aren’t ripe, their flesh is denser.  With honeydews and watermelons, whose rinds contain lots of water, it is easier to tell when thumping on them whether they are dense or not.  Not so with cantaloupes. Their rinds are like burlap and not watery at all.  Someone who has handled large numbers of them might be able to tell, but the method is not foolproof and often people end up with cantaloupes that need another few weeks to ripen.  Use the smell test–it works every time.

That’s the scoop on cantaloupes. Enjoy!

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Monday

One of my several books is finally coming together.  I have been plugging away steadily and actually making a dent in getting it done.  The result though, is that when I have time to sit and write, it doesn’t happen here.  Many days, like this one, the choice is eat, write, cello, or French.  Usually only eat wins.  Tonight I bought plant starts for the garden, and since it was not raining I decided to plant those instead of all my other potential projects, so I managed only eat and plant.  Oh, and pull weeds.  First I had to pull weeds out of the planter boxes in order to plant the vegetables in them.  The ground was soft and loamy, perfect for pulling weeds and also for planting.  Oregon’s weather today was as schizophrenic as ever, unable to decide between warm sun and pounding rain.  I’m a bit dismayed by the rains we are getting.  They are more like east coast rains than typical Oregon rains, but things are changing in the weather world, so I should not be surprised.

In any case, it was pouring rain when I bought the baby plants, but by the time we got home, I made dinner and we ate it, the sun had decided to come out and stay out until dusk when I completed the planting.  This was quite satisfactory.  I love digging in the dirt and growing things.  It makes me feel centered.  Isabel came outside with me and helped. She scolded Ava whenever Ava barked at the wind, or the walking neighbor, or the squirrel, or the cat, or the way her fur fell across her face.  Isabel also made her hoo sound and showed me plants, helped me to pick weeds, and showed me how her coat snaps.  She liked pulling out the old leaves from the flower bulbs that have already bloomed for the year.  She stacked them in the stack of discarded plant parts and old rooty things.  Then she watched closely as I dug holes and placed baby lettuce or baby corn into them.  Adorable.

I finished this gardening project at dusk and my hands were filthy, so I figured it was as good a time as any to take a bath.  However, taking a bath and getting baby ready for bed took up the whole evening, leaving me basically no time for cello, French, or writing.  Now I should be sleeping but I’m typing this.  Why?  I have no idea.  I just pulled out the computer and started to go.  I can’t say what insane motivation drove me to it.  I am going to overcome this motivation now and go to sleep because the only time I’m going to get writing done during the week is in the early morning, which means getting up early, and if I am going to get any sleep at all (which is necessary in my brain for coherent writing), I have to stop this now and turn out the light.

April 80 Degrees

Yesterday it was over 80 degrees. It was April 12. Pretty warm for mid-April in Oregon. My little cold-weather primroses and pansies look like they were lost in the desert, and they were wet to begin the day. They just can’t handle that amount of heat and direct sun. They have spent the last two months all perky and happy because it has been damp and cold, but not too cold. I moved them out of the sun this morning, but the damage is done. I can plant them in the ground and they will come back next year, but for now, I’m going to have to move some Gerber daisies or something to the front.

I finally remembered to buy rings for the peonies NOW instead of after they are too big to do anything with except tie yarn around their middles.  I got a great deal too.  One of the quilting rings at the fabric store was missing a little screw so it only cost $1.74.  And it was one of the really big ones that would have been $7 new.  I also got a mid-size set.

The night before last the impending warmth was in evidence. I mowed the lawn, pulled weeds, and put some grass seed on the bare patches. I’ve had the seed for a few months now. My front lawn is frustrating. I put in sod the year before last and it looked great until the very end of the summer. It just died. Last summer it came back thinly, but I never got around to reseeding. This winter, it just looked all patchy and awful. It’s been a really wet winter and you wouldn’t think that would matter, but it seemed to just create mud, even with decent drainage.

So last February in a fit of hope I bought the seed. After I discovered temperatures need to be consistently over 58 degrees for it to live, so the bag has been sitting on the back porch waiting patiently for its time to come. The other night it felt like it was going to be really warm the next day so I went ahead and did it. Yesterday was so warm I actually had to add water. Weird. 80 degrees in April. Global warming must be a myth. Good times.