DINUBA, Calif. – Something new is happening in the world of cantaloupe! According to the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, which represents all growers of cantaloupe in California, cantaloupe growers around the world are increasingly planting newer varieties that have longer shelf life, which helps to reduce food waste.
California cantaloupe farmers are no exception. This summer nearly all of the state’s cantaloupes – which are harvesting now – will be newer, longer shelf-life varieties. And this means your old method for selecting a good one has changed.
“California cantaloupe growers want people to know these new varieties offer consumers that same great cantaloupe taste they love, along with some extra benefits,” said Garrett Patricio, of Westside Produce, a California melon supplier. “But with these new varieties comes some new rules to follow when selecting a ripe cantaloupe at your grocery store.”
Selecting the perfect cantaloupe has often been considered challenging for many people. But, according to Patricio, new cantaloupe varieties make that process easier in many ways.
“Plant breeders are constantly working to improve cantaloupe varieties to give you the best eating experience possible,” says Patricio. “These new varieties are bred to be sweeter and to have firmer flesh, which means they last longer on store shelves and in people’s refrigerators. This means they can help people stretch their food dollars and less food ends up in the trash.”
Patricio also explains that under a program known as the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, farmers are required to test their melons for sugar content before they harvest. The sugar requirement is enforced by the California Department of Food and Agriculture for all cantaloupes produced in the state.
“We do this by testing for brix, which is a measurement of sugar content,” explains Patricio. “California cantaloupes must have at least 12 brix when they are harvested. However, many new cantaloupes are actually harvested at close to 14 or 15 brix. Meaning you can expect a very sweet eating experience and shoppers can have confidence when it comes to picking out the perfect cantaloupe in stores.”
The California Cantaloupe Advisory Board also offers some updated tricks and tips for selecting the perfect cantaloupe.
How to Pick a New Variety Cantaloupe
- A Little Green is OK
While a cream color is always a good indicator of a mature melon, new varieties may often have a somewhat green hue. Don’t be deterred by a slightly green cast on new variety of cantaloupes.
2. Cracking Isn’t Always a Bad Thing
If the ‘blossom end’ (the end opposite the stem) is beginning to show a bit of cracking, this can be a good indicator of ripeness, so don’t worry that the cracking is a defect. Another sign of ripeness, this blossom end will be somewhat soft to the touch, meaning it gives slightly when pressed gently with the fingers.
3. Stem or No Stem – Either is Fine
The stem end of newer cantaloupe varieties may be smooth, but it’s just as likely to have a bit of stem left on the melon. A good sign of a mature melon is that some netting is growing up the stem. Netting is the raised net-like texture on the shell of the cantaloupe.
4. The Nose Doesn’t Always Know
Newer cantaloupe varieties don’t emit a natural gas called ethylene, which enhances ripening. This is one reason they last longer, but it also means they don’t give off the same traditional, sweet melon smell, even though they typically have higher sugar content than the old varieties.
Note: Please note that today’s new cantaloupe varieties are NOT produced using genetically modified breeding techniques but are done using traditional cross pollination methods for varietal development.