Cantaloupe is a favorite for many Arkansans! Why not try this juicy sweet melon on a hot summer day or anytime, really? With its orange color, due to beta-carotene, which serves as a great source of vitamin A that helps maintain healthy tissue and bones, functional retinas in the eyes, skin cell growth, and a strong immune system, just a few of the reasons why cantaloupe is good for us!

Cantaloupe is full of vitamins and minerals needed to keep the body healthy. Making cantaloupe part of your regular diet helps you avoid symptoms associated with vitamin A deficiency, such as loss of vision and a weakened immune system.

Each one-cup serving of cantaloupe contains more than enough vitamin A recommended daily for adult men and women! Cantaloupe is also a great source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is important because it protects your cells from oxidative damage. Preventing this damage is helpful in fighting against diseases. It also helps your body make collagen, a protein essential in maintaining strong bones and skin.

How to grow cantaloupes? Cantaloupes, also known as muskmelon, grow on a vine and are warm weather-loving plants. The soil must warm to at least 65 degrees for the seed to germinate. Plant seeds in rows after the dangers of frost have passed, 1 inch deep and 18 to 24 inches apart. The rows should be spaced at least 5 feet apart to allow enough room for the plants to flourish.

Cantaloupes usually grow best in fertile garden soil. They require pollination by bees for fruit growth to continue. They have both male and female flowers, which are only open and receptive to pollination for one day. If the female flower is not pollinated, the fruit shrivels up and falls off.

A tip for attracting bees to the cantaloupe is planting salvias and sunflowers near the garden. When the cantaloupe is ripe, the rind changes from green to tan or yellow and the vine will naturally slip from the fruit when it is ready to harvest.

When buying your melon, choose fresh cantaloupe that is fragrant and that has a cream or yellowish undertone between the netting (the pattern on the outside skin).

The stem end of the melon should give a little pressure, but the stem should not be attached to the melon. If you find melons for sale that have little stubs of vine sticking out of them, they were harvested too early and probably won’t be very sweet. Avoid any melon with a bruised exterior or that has a very strong odor.

Whole, uncut melons can be left on the counter for five to 15 days, depending on ripeness. Whole, uncut melons will last in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Once cut, refrigerate cantaloupe for up to 5 days. Do not remove seed from the unused cut portion of cantaloupe until ready to use, because the seeds help maintain moisture. Cantaloupe’s texture will change when frozen or canned, therefore, those storage methods are not recommended.

Prepare thoroughly washed cantaloupe before consuming. Melons are almost always eaten raw. Did you know you can also grill cantaloupe? Use a large sturdy knife to cut the melon in half lengthwise. Use a large spoon to remove the seeds and strings. Cut each half into wedges. To dice, as for a fruit salad, carefully slice the flesh from the skin and chop each wedge of flesh into desired size. Cut cantaloupe into wedges and remove the skin. Brush each wedge with oil and place on a grill at medium heat, turning over every few minutes for 10-12 minutes.

Arkansas cantaloupe-melons are divided into two groups: Citrullus (watermelons) and cucumis (the muskmelon cantaloupe group). The culture of muskmelons is like cucumbers, although they have a longer growing period. Most varieties popular in Arkansas have salmon-colored flesh (some are green fleshed) and netted rinds and are properly called muskmelons. The name describes the aroma (musk or perfume) of the ripe fruit.

Try this Cantaloupe Cooler with your next Arkansas cantaloupe to help cool you off in this hot summer heat!

Cantaloupe Coolers

Ingredients: Serves 6

1 small cantaloupe

½ cup water

4 tablespoons sugar

Peel and cut cantaloupe into small pieces. Combine with water and sugar and blend or mash until smooth. Pour into two ice cube trays and freeze. Enjoy it as a refreshing cool treat or add to your favorite fruit drink or smoothie.

For more information on cantaloupe, contact your Garland County Extension Service office.

Crystal D. Rushing is a county Extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, SNAP Ed, with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service in Garland County. She can be reached by emailing [email protected].

4-H information

There are several 4-H clubs for Garland County young people who are 5 to 19 years old. For more information on all the fun 4-H activities that are available, call the Extension Office at 501-623-6841.

Master Gardener information

Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge. They’re open to the public and guests are welcome.

EHC information

The Extension Homemakers Club is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC contact Alison Crane on 623-6841 or email her at [email protected].

Poultry testing

Poultry birds being entered in the Garland County Fair must be tested prior to the fair. Testing will take place at the Garland County Fairgrounds on Malvern Road on Saturday, Aug. 12, starting at 8 a.m. until finished. All entries, including 4-H Poultry Chain, must be tested and entered that day except for waterfowl. Waterfowl do not require testing but must be entered on or prior to Aug. 12. For more information, call Phillip Howell at 501-627-2646 or Michael Howell at 501-762-7277.


Crystal D. Rushing, Extension agent. – Submitted photo