It’s only January, but our thoughts are turning to summer today. I guess we’re tired of winter already, and it’s only just begun. We generally love winter here in the country, those bright, crisp days when the sunshine makes the snow sparkle like diamonds. Or, if it’s like a blizzard outside and we’re sitting by the fire reminiscing about years gone by, looking out at the storm and feeling safe tucked away in our cocoon. It’s a cozy kind of feeling that’s hard to capture any other time of year. But it’s not snowing today and looking a little drab, that in-between kind of day that lots of lighting inside helps to counteract. Thinking about summer helps, too. And when we think of summer we think of cantaloupes. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to be in warm weather year round, you can enjoy juicy, refreshing cantaloupe any time you want.
Cantaloupe is a superfood that can protect you against disease — it is rich in substances that can ward off cancer and strokes. Nutrient-dense, which means their nutrient content is high in proportion to their caloric content, one pound of cantaloupe contains 100 percent of adults’ required dietary allowance of vitamin A and vitamin C plus 825 milligrams of heart-protecting potassium, all with only 90 calories — a dieter’s delight.
The rich, creamsicle-orange color of the fruit comes from beta carotene, the plant version of vitamin A. Studies have found that people who eat a diet rich in yellow and green veggies and fruits have a lower incidence of cancer, especially lung cancer and esophagus cancer, than those who don’t. Cantaloupe also contains the chemical adenosine, which is also found in onions and garlic, and inhibits human platelet aggregation, thus preventing the formation of blood clots that can lead to stroke.
Selecting the Perfect Cantaloupe
The best-tasting melons are always those that are locally grown and generally available in summer here in the north. Noted for its pronounced heavenly scent, cantaloupe is part of the muskmelon family. Begin your search for the perfect melon by smelling them. Picked at its peak, a melon will exude that pleasant sweet aroma we like to call “cantaloupey.” The riper the cantaloupe, the more intense the aroma. A ripe cantaloupe should also have a thick, raised webbing with a yellow, not green, background. The round, depressed stem hollow should be smooth, not rough, indicating that the melon was slipped off the vine when truly ripe. The rind will give slightly when pressed at the end opposite the stem hollow.
One or two days on the kitchen counter will add to a melon’s juiciness, but once picked, they do not sweeten further. After two days, refrigerate your cantaloupes until you’re ready to use them — up to three or four days.
Snacking on Melon
An easy way to encourage snacking on nutritious cantaloupe is to have it at the ready. Peel and seed two or three, cut them into small wedges and store in clear plastic zip lock bags — perfect for a quick snack or to toss into a fruit or veggie salad or on cereal. Empty cantaloupe shells make attractive serving bowls.
Cantaloupe is a traditional appetizer paired with prosciutto, but for a vegetarian starter try Bel Paese, Havarti or fontina cheese or vegan cheese alternatives and a drizzle of raspberry vinaigrette.
Cantaloupe with Warm Blueberry Sauce
This recipe packs a double whammy of nutrition. Blueberries, along with black currants, contain high amounts of chemicals that act against bacteria and viruses and that help to counteract the damage caused by a high-cholesterol diet. Of course, they are super-delicious to boot. Another feature of this dish is the warm on cold factor of the warm berry sauce that gives a smooth, creaminess to the cantaloupe. Like ice cream on hot fudge sauce chocolate cake, well not quite, but way better for the waistline and arteries.
1 small ripe cantaloupe
2 cups blueberries
1/4 cup sugar or honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch
dash of cinnamon
Peel and dice the cantaloupe; divide it among 4 dessert dishes. Place blueberries in a 4-cup microwaveable measuring pitcher. Mix together the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon and stir into the berries. Microwave on high for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The sauce is done once the liquid is thick and bubbly and the berries are still whole. Spoon over the cantaloupe portions.