This tasty melon is ready for summer
By Maddie Bane
Even if you’re not planning to elope, you should be planning to get some fresh cantaloupe in your kitchen. This melon, technically known as a muskmelon, is a member of a vine-crop family and shares similar nutritional characteristics with squash, cucumbers, pumpkins and gourds. Since they thrive in warm climates, June in the Lowcountry is the most ideal time to buy or even grow cantaloupe.
‘Beta’ for you
Studies have shown that cantaloupes contain the same amount of beta-carotene as carrots. Beta-carotene is a pigment that gives fruit and vegetables an orange color, but once consumed, it turns into vitamin A and acts as an antioxidant. Additionally, cantaloupes are a great source of vitamin C, fiber and water. The fruit contains a high water content at nearly 90 percent.
Too mulch of a good thing
As a warm-season crop in the Lowcountry, cantaloupe seeds need to be planted in late spring or early summer once the soil has reached a temperature between 60 and 65 degrees. To get the fruit growing quickly, it’s best to use black plastic mulch. The color of the mulch will absorb sunlight and heat the soil quickly. This type of mulch also prevents weeds and rotting fruit. The crop needs to be watered often, but too much water could lead to a lack of sweetness in flavor. Most cantaloupe varieties will be ready for harvest in 30 to 35 days, and they will let you know they’re ready by popping right off of the vine.
Where to buy them
When purchasing cantaloupe, either at the farmers market or grocery store, there are some qualities to keep in mind to pick out the best one. Look for one that appears symmetrical and feels heavy with a sweet and musky smell. Most grocery stores will have fresh cantaloupe in stock all month. The Bluffton Farmers Market is a great place to find ones grown locally by Adams Farm, Tuten Farms, Will’s Lowcountry Produce and other local farmers. The market is open from noon to 5 p.m. each Thursday on Green Street in Old Town Bluffton. Check out its Facebook page each Thursday morning for a list of vendors.
How to use them
Cantaloupe is great to eat by itself or to add into a smoothie or yogurt bowl, but you can also roast it. Doing so brings out the fruit’s natural sweetness. On the other end of the temperature spectrum, freezing diced pieces can make for a great summer snack while sitting under the hot sun.
Hilton Head Island Farmers Market
9 a.m.-1 p.m., Coastal Discovery Museum
Farmers & Makers Market
10 a.m.-2 p.m., The Shops at Sea Pines Center
Bluffton Farmer’s Market
noon-5 p.m., Old Town Bluffton
Port Royal Farmers Market
9 a.m.-noon, Ribaut Road, Port Royal
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen – Melon and serrano ham arugula salad
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
5 slices cantaloupe, skin removed
3 ounces Serrano ham, thinly sliced
4 cups trimmed arugula, loosely packed
1/4 cup Manchego cheese, shaved
Directions  Add sherry vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin into a large bowl. Whisk until combined.  Add in cantaloupe and ham and toss gently to coat.  Arrange arugula evenly on a serving platter and place cantaloupe and ham on top. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen – Melon-bowl fruit salad
1 kiwi, cubed
1 apricot, sliced
1 handful blueberries
1 handful blackberries
3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon chia seeds
Fresh mint leaves
Directions  Remove seeds from cantaloupe half, creating a bowl-like shape.  Combine yogurt and chia seeds and place into cantaloupe bowl. Add kiwi, apricot, blueberries, and blackberries on top of yogurt mixture.  Garnish with mint and enjoy.
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen – Minty cantaloupe popsicles
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Handful fresh mint leaves, chopped and whole
Directions  Over medium heat, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil. Add the chopped mint leaves and steep for 10 minutes. Let cool.  Cut cantaloupe into large chunks, removing seeds. Place cantaloupe into food processor until puréed. Add minty sugar mixture and combine for a few seconds.  Pour mixture into popsicle molds and add whole mint leaves if desired. Freeze for several hours or until solid.