At their best, cantaloupes are tender, juicy, and sweet. At their worst, they’re the flavorless hunks you push aside in a fruit salad. How do you choose a good one every time? Look for a taut rind without bruises or cracks; the peel under the bumpy webbing should be golden. The melon should feel heavy for its size, and the blossom end, opposite the stem, should yield to slight pressure. Also, you need to sniff it. (Yes, be that person in the produce aisle.) It should smell sweet and almost floral. Have a winner? Eat it straight up, or use it in one of the following recipes. Its sweetness pairs well with salty meats and cheeses, and you can’t beat the peachy-keen color.
Solid as a rock?
If you end up with a hard, not-quite-ripe cantaloupe, give it a few days. A cantaloupe continues to ripen and sweeten at room temperature. Let it sit on a counter, or put it in a paper bag to speed up the process. Once it’s ripe, refrigerate it for up to 5 days (whole) or 3 days (cut, in an airtight container).
All in the family
Specialty melons with cantaloupe-like flesh and flavor abound in summer. Look for Charentais, Crenshaw, Gaya, Hami, Persian, and Sharlyn melons. These varieties will all work in the following recipes: