Contributed by: Jim Bolding
Delicious, nutritious and low calorie... What more can you ask of a snack? Well the cantaloupe has more. It fills you up, is very refreshing and will satisfy your sweet tooth as well.
Cantaloupe is also a great source of key nutrients. It's the highest of all melons in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene acts as an antioxidant in the body and may help reduce the risk of some cancers. It's also a good source of potassium and vitamins A and C.
Cantaloupes (although you might not notice the resemblance) are related to squashes, and rank somewhere between summer and winter squashes in terms of nutritiousness. They resemble summer squashes in their high water content and low calorie count.
The melon that Americans call cantaloupe (the most popular melon in the United States) is actually a muskmelon. True cantaloupe comes from Europe and has a rough, warty surface quite unlike the netted rind of our familiar fruit. Cantaloupe is available year round but the peak season is right now through August. California, Arizona, and Texas provide the majority of the U.S. commercial cantaloupe crop, but if you can find a local farmer they'll be even better.
Since cantaloupes have no starch reserves to convert to sugar, they will not ripen further once they have left the vine. They're picked when they are ripe but still firm, to protect them during shipping.
You can improve the eating quality of a firm, uncut cantaloupe by leaving it at room temperature for two to four days; the fruit will not become sweeter, but it will turn softer and juicier.
If your market sells cut cantaloupes, the fruit should be perfect for immediate consumption, as it will not improve once it is cut. With cut melons, you can check the color and texture of the flesh, and usually smell the delectable fragrance of a ripe melon even through the tight plastic wrapping.
Preparation of the melon is Simple. Just cut it open and remove the seeds and strings. It can be served in many attractive ways: cut into halves, quarters, wedges, or cubes; or the flesh can be scooped out with a melon baller.
For melon rings, cut a cantaloupe into thick crosswise slices, scrape out the seeds, and remove the rind, if desired. This makes a nice container for other things.
Once cut, cantaloupe should be refrigerated and used within about two days. (Mine never last that long). Enclose cut pieces in plastic bags to protect other produce in the refrigerator from the ethylene gas that the melons give off. Ripe cantaloupe is also very fragrant, and the aroma of a cut melon can penetrate other foods.
Snacking should be a planned event but the satisfying, nutrient-dense cantaloupe is so low calorie (about 50 calories per quarter melon) if you're going to slip it should be with cantaloupe. Keep some in your fridge.
Jim Bolding is the publisher of Diet and Fitness News and the Webmaster at http://www.dietandfitnessonline.com
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