Time to enjoy this sweet, juicy fruit. You may look at them in the market and wonder how you can tell if they are ripe. Unfortunately there is no way to know for sure until you cut it open, but there are three things you can do to help get a good tasting melon.
1. Pick one up and hold it in your hands. It should be heavy for its size and a light beige color.
2. You’ll notice a round spot – that is where it was attached to the plant. Press on either side of the circle with your thumbs. It should give a little, or leave a slight indentation.
3. Then sniff the circle. It should have a sweet smell, like you would want it to taste.
When you bring your melon home, it may have passed all the tests for maturity and still not be completely ripe. Leaving it at room temperance for two or three days will ripen it to a good flavor and aroma. You can put it in a shady spot on the countertop, or, like other fruits, put it in a loosely closed brown paper bag at room temperature. This traps the ethylene gas that the cantaloupe releases and that helps the fruit to ripen. To encourage the ripening to go a little faster you can put a ripe banana or apple in the bag with the cantaloupe. The bag is porous, so the carbon dioxide escapes and oxygen comes in. This is important; otherwise the melon would ferment. As soon as it is fully ripe, store it in the refrigerator.
STORING IN THE REFRIGERATOR
If you want to keep the melon whole for serving, put it into a tightly sealed plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. It will keep for about five days. Put cut-up melon into an airtight container (such as Tupperware) and keep it refrigerated for up to three days. This not only keeps the fruit fresh, but prevents the strong aroma from permeating other foods around it.
To prepare cantaloupe for freezing, cut it in half, cut off the rind, scoop out the seeds and cut it in whatever shapes you want it to be (balls, slices, etc). Then spread the pieces on a baking sheet and put it in the coldest part of your refrigerator. When they are frozen pour them into a freezer bag, leaving ½ inch of space for them to expand. Since they were frozen in separate pieces you’ll be able to take out just what you need at one time.
The melon will have a sweeter, deeper flavor if served at room temperature.