Are you growing cantaloupes in your garden this summer? I am and they are growing like weeds these days. If things keep going the way they are now, we may be up to our ears in cantaloupe soon (fingers crossed)!
This year I am growing Hale's Best Jumbo Cantaloupe.
I normally try to grow some more obscure types of melons, but I completely forgot to order cantaloupe seeds from my favorite mail order seed supplier this year, and ended up getting whatever heirloom seeds I could find at a local garden supply company. This is the first year I've tried Hale's Best Jumbo, but I must say, so far it seems to be a really good heirloom cantaloupe for our Virginia garden.
Hale's Best Jumbo is an heirloom cantaloupe with fruit that get to be up to 5 pounds in size. The plant gets to be about 18 inches tall and can spread 3-6 feet. Hale's Best Jumbo produces fruit with a deep green skin and golden netting. It also has sweet, aromatic, salmon colored flesh.
How Do You Tell When a Cantaloupe is Ready to be Harvested?
That's the $64 thousand dollar question, isn't it? Luckily, cantaloupes will continue to ripen a bit after you pick them, so it isn't absolutely critical that they ripen completely on the vine. However, it's better to let them ripen on the vine as close to maturity as you can -- it allows the fruit to become as sweet as possible. And the sweeter, the better! Just don't wait too long -- cantaloupe can become mushy and watery if left to over-ripen too long on the vine.
There are a few key indicators that will help you to know when a cantaloupe is ready to harvest:
- Examine the color: When cantaloupe are immature, they will be green. As the fruit mature, the surface netting becomes a tan-ish/brown color and the skin right below the netting starts to yellow. The surface netting also becomes more raised and ridge-like as the fruit matures. (the cantaloupe in my photo above is not quite ready -- it's still pretty green!)
- Give it a sniff: Ripe cantaloupes are aromatic at the blossom end (the end not attached to the vine).
- Give it a little twist: As cantaloupes get close to full maturity, a crack will appear around the vine where the fruit is attached. This is called "slip stage". When mature, the fruit will easily detach from the vine with a little pull and twist. But, don't pull too hard -- if it doesn't easily detach from the vine, it's not ready! This is by far the best way to tell if the cantaloupe is ready to be picked or not.