How to Pick a Cantaloupe That’s Sweet, Ripe and Ready to Eat

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how to pick a cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is one of summer’s sweetest treats, but is it just us or is choosing the ideal melon kind of intimidating? (C’mon, they all look the same—and we’ve all been burned by a bland one.) Here’s how to pick a cantaloupe so it’s ripe and ready to eat when you come home from the store.

How to pick a cantaloupe:

This is one time when you have full permission to touch and even sniff the fruit at the grocery store. Why? Because scent and feel are the two best indicators of a ripe cantaloupe.

Smell: A ripe cantaloupe will have a sweet, almost musky aroma. According to culinary scientist Harold McGee’s Keys to Good Cooking, you should give it a whiff by finding the blossom end (it’s opposite the stem end). If it smells cloying, fermented or just plain bad, it’s probably overripe. 

Feel: Stay away from melons that have any mushy spots, which are signs of rot. A good cantaloupe will feel firm but not rock-hard. Gently press the blossom end and it should give ever so slightly. The most flavorful cantaloupes will also feel heavy for their size and sound hollow and solid when tapped.

How to store a ripe (or unripe) cantaloupe:

If you’re able to bring home a ripe cantaloupe, congrats! Now get it in the fridge, stat. A ripe melon can be kept in the refrigerator for up to five days before eating. 

If the cantaloupe isn’t quite ready to be sliced and served, no worries. Just keep it on the countertop at room temperature for two or three days, checking daily for progress.

Will cantaloupe ripen after you cut it?

You thought your cantaloupe was ready, so you sliced it open…only to find that it was hard and flavorless and underripe. Can’t you just wrap it up and wait a few days for it to ripen?

Unfortunately, no. Once a cantaloupe is cut into or sliced, it won’t ripen any further. But don’t throw it in the bin just yet! You can try using it as a base for a smoothie, dicing it into a salsa or chutney, or even grilling it to bring out some of the natural sweetness. (Look at you, reducing food waste.)

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Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...