The Basics

What Americans commonly call a "cantaloupe" is in fact a type of muskmelon, or netted melon. (True cantaloupes are smaller and far more available in Europe and the Middle East.) The cantaloupe you see in supermarkets has beige skin covered with yellow raised webbing. Its soft orange flesh is one of the sweetest pleasures of summer.

Buying and Storing

Look for a melon with prominent webbing, a paler, slightly flattened side, and no attached stem -- signs that it was allowed to fully ripen before being harvested, thus ensuring the deepest flavor. Then, take a whiff: A ripe melon will be intensely fragrant. It should be firm, not rock hard, and feel heavy for its size. Melons are perishable, so keep yours in a cool, dry place. If it begins to soften or develop sunken areas, move it to the refrigerator and use within a day or two.

To Use

Before slicing, wash the whole melon in warm, soapy water -- the skin may harbor bacteria, and this step can prevent it from being transferred to the flesh. For a fast snack, cut the melon in half, scoop out the seeds, and slice into wedges. Or, with a sharp knife, trim the melon flat on top and bottom, stand it upright, and cut away the skin in strips.


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