Ohio melons can be divided into two groups—muskmelons and watermelons. Muskmelons include cantaloupe and honeydew.
For information on melon varieties in Ohio, contact your county educator in agriculture and natural resources at Ohio State University Extension, or a master gardener volunteer.
Cantaloupe - Make sure the melon has no bruises or discolorations. A bleached side where the melon rested on the ground is acceptable. Look for a cantaloupe with a prominent, evenly distributed, corky “netting” on its skin. The netting will be either buff or a light tan color on either a green, yellow, or a gray background. The stem end should be smooth, slightly sunken, and well rounded. The blossom end should give slightly when pressed. The sign of a ripe melon is a sweet, musky aroma. The flesh is usually orange, but some varieties have a green flesh.
Honeydew - The melon should have a creamy yellow color when picked. If the melon is green, it will never ripen. The skin should have the feeling of velvet and the blossom end should feel slightly springy. The flesh should be green, juicy, sweet, and have a “melting” quality when eaten.
It is extremely difficult to tell if a watermelon is ripe from its outside appearance, but the following tactics may help identify the best quality watermelons.
- Examine the spot where the melon has been resting on the ground. A yellow-white color indicates ripeness. A white or pale green color suggests immaturity.
- Scratch the surface of the rind with your thumbnail. If the outer layer slips back with little resistance and shows the green-white under the rind, the watermelon is ripe. Scratching unripe melons displays a darker depressed line.
- Choose a melon with a smooth surface, dull sheen, and well-rounded ends.
- Some experts say that if the melon sounds hollow when tapped, itis ripe. Others don’t believe this tactic identifies a ripe melon.
- Many people purchase cut melons and judge ripeness from the appearance of the inside of the melon. The more red flesh and less white rind, the riper the melon.
- Yellow Crimson watermelons have yellow-colored flesh and are described as sweeter or more honey-flavored than red flesh watermelon.
- White seeds may indicate the melon was picked too early but seedless watermelons may still have small white seeds. Seeds are safe to consume.
Due to many variables such as moisture content, size, and variety, it is difficult to give specific recommendations. The recommendations below are approximations.
- 3 pounds of muskmelon = about 5 cups of diced melon.
- 3 pounds of watermelon = about 4 cups of diced melon.
The Dietary Guideline for Americans recommends 2 cups of fruits per day as part of a healthy diet. Melons are a tasty and nutritious way to meet this requirement:
- A cup of cantaloupe has 60 calories and is rich in vitamins A and C.
- A cup of honeydew has 64 calories.
- Honeydew is very rich in vitamin C, potassium, and B vitamins. Watermelon is 93 percent water, and 1 cup has about 45 calories.
- Watermelon has significant amounts of vitamins A and C.
- Red watermelon is a good source of lycopene, a phytonutrient that gives watermelon its color. Lycopene appears to protect the body against prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and colorectal cancers.
- Lycopene also helps to protect cells from damage associated with heart disease.
- Whole melons can be held a day or two at room temperature until they ripen.
Figure 2. A healthy diet includes 2 cups of melon per day. Photo: Jill Wellington, Pixabay.
- If the blossom end gives to gentle thumb pressure, store watermelons in the refrigerator. Watermelons can be stored uncut for two to three weeks.
- Wash melons with cool, running water before slicing. Scrub the rind with a soft-bristled brush while rinsing. Do not use soap, detergent, or bleach because these liquids absorb into the fruit.
- Soft spots do not affect melon flavor, but decayed spots should be cut out before refrigerating.
- Melon must be refrigerated after cutting. Place melon in a sealed storage container or place plastic wrap over the exposed part of the melon.
- Covered, cut melon may be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. It is important to wrap the melon tightly to keep the melon aroma from mingling with other foods.
- Any melon can be frozen, with or without syrup, for use in the future.
- Canning watermelon flesh is not recommended, but the watermelon rind may be made into preserves. nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/watermelon_rind_preserves.html.
- For a colorful appetizer, serve your favorite muskmelon with thinly sliced prosciutto (Italian-style ham).
- Combine melon with water or lemonade in a blender or add ginger ale for a refreshing summer drink.
- Add other fruits with muskmelons to make tasty chilled salads or desserts.
- Hollow out a melon and fill with sherbet, cottage cheese, or vanilla ice cream.
- Top melon cubes with yogurt and sprinkle with granola for a healthy one-dish breakfast.
- Invite friends in on a hot summer day for a “watermelon bust” to enjoy cool, crisp watermelon without the aid of spoon, fork, or plate.
- Cut watermelon into strips that resemble French fries for a fun children’s snack.
- Use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of a ½–¾ inch thick slice of watermelon. Frost with vanilla yogurt. Sprinkle with granola.
- Make watermelon kabobs with cubes of watermelon, cheddar cheese, and smoked turkey breast.
- Try adding watermelon to salsa or making a melon smoothie.
Yield: 4 servings
- 3 cups cubed, seeded watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- ½ cup water
- Place one half of the melon into a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth and liquid. Add the remaining half of the melon and continue to puree until smooth and liquid.
- Pour into a medium-sized bowl and stir in lemon juice.
- Mix sugar and gelatin in a small saucepan. Stir in water. Heat slowly, stirring constantly until the gelatin dissolves. Cool slightly and then stir into melon mixture.
- Pour into a 9 x 9 x 2-inch cake pan. Freeze about 1½ hours until firm around edges.
- Spoon into a large bowl; beat until smooth. Return to pan and freeze until firm.
Serving idea: Make three melon sorbets: cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon. Place a small scoop of each in a pretty bowl or glass. Serve with a thin, crisp cookie.
For information on preserving melon, go to ohioline.osu.edu or contact your local Ohio State University Extension office for the following fact sheet:
FoodData Central. n.d. U.S. Department of Agriculture (website), accessed July 15, 2021. fdc.nal.usda.gov/index.html.
National Center for Home Food Preservation. n.d. University of Georgia, College of Family and Consumer Sciences (website). Accessed July 23, 2021. nchfp.uga.edu.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Weights and Measures for Agricultural Commodities. Dover: Delaware Department of Agriculture, 2009–2010, 29. PDF. nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Delaware/Publications/Annual_Statistical_Bulletin/2009/Page29.pdf.