Ingredient Introduction #13 – Cantaloupe

After the papaya debacle, I went back to the produce section for redemption.

As a cantaloupe lover, when I found one with a fancy name, I had to try it.

The Fresh Market introduced me to the Charentais.

It’s smaller than the typical variety, and it lacks the common imperfections of the bigger ones. A khaki backdrop lets the emerald green stripes shine.

Sometime just called a Charentais melon, this orb is often referred to as a French cantaloupe. It’s history dates way back in France (the Poitou-Charentes region), but Mexico (Winter months) gets in on the action, too. They’re apparently so fragile that shipping them isn’t very common. Don’t expect to find them in a regular grocery store.

With a typical cantaloupe, you have to act like a drug sniffing dog, and stand in the supermarket until you get a whiff of the good stuff. The Charentais, though, is known for its super sweet flesh.

Cut it open, scoop out the small portion of seeds, then carve away the rind.

The fruit is a glowing orange, but it’s somewhat firm, like not-yet-ripe cantaloupe kind of firm. The flavor is like candy, like super-ripe cantaloupe sweet. It’s almost floral.

I couldn’t fathom trying to turn this into something it’s not. So, we just ate it raw. I know. Can you believe it? This variety isn’t meant to be cooked, but I think it would be wonderful in a smoothie!

There is nothing like having a bowl of cantaloupe in the fridge to satisfy a starving sweet tooth.

In general, the cantaloupe is loaded with nutrients, especially vitamin C. When I was in college, I worked on the side, and one night I went in even though I felt like crap. I went to my boss, and asked her if I felt warm (she’s a super-sweet lady). She said I did, and told me to go home and eat an entire cantaloupe because of the vitamins it offers. That’s always stuck with me.

If you see the Charentais cantaloupe (hello, upcoming farmers’ markets), grab several. You won’t regret it.

Tip: Avoid those pre-cut melon/fruit bowls at the grocery store. They make you pay dearly for the chopping and cutting done behind the scenes. You’re better off buying the fruit whole and cutting it up yourself. You’ll save money. Plus, those cups and bowls are probably filled with the fruit that was on the verge of going bad. They want to get rid of it. I can’t blame them, but still. And even if they hack up any old melon, it might not be ripe. Who wants to pay $5 for a small bowl of tough, flavorless fruit?


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