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Muskmelon? Cantaloupe? Who are you?


Being frugally natured, I like to try and purchase my produce in season because supposedly it is less expensive that way. I went online to remind myself what fruits and vegetables will be coming out in the next few months and stumbled across a lot of produce that I had never heard of before. The most intriguing was Muskmelons. Do they have a musky smell?

I imagine a scene in the beautiful countryside of Montana. A big burly lumberjack in a red plaid shirt chatting with his also manly colleague that is slightly covered in sawdust from a morning of hard work. Speaking in his deepest tough guy voice, “Would you like to try some muskmelon? It’s good!”

Stereotypes aside, what is a muskmelon?

Apparently, Muskmelons are confused with cantaloupes quite often. Jennifer Schultz Nelson, who works with the University of Illinois says, “there is technically a difference, but often the names are used interchangeably. The term cantaloupe refers to two varieties of muskmelon. What we typically call a cantaloupe is Cucumis melo reticulatus, also called the North American cantaloupe. The variety name reticulatus refers to the net-like appearance of the skin, also called reticulated. The other variety, European cantaloupe, Cucumis melo cantalupensis, has ribbed light green skin and looks nothing like what we commonly call cantaloupe. While both of these cantaloupe varieties are muskmelons, not all muskmelons are cantaloupes. The name muskmelon comes from the sweet fragrance of the ripe fruit. The term musk comes from a Persian word for perfume, and melon is a French word derived from the Latin melopepo, which means ‘apple-shaped melon’. There are many different types of muskmelons, with a wide variety of shapes, sizes, flesh color and flavor. Muskmelons, including cantaloupe are native to Persia, which is present-day Iran.”

From searching through pictures, I understand at a quick glance how people can get them confused. The main difference I see is that the muskmelon has deeper grooves in the ribbing as compared to the more spherically round cantaloupe. This is also up for debt depending on where they are grown. Derrick Chan from Foodilistic showed a picture of what I thought was a cantaloupe but said it was a muskmelon. Derrick then explained how sometimes cantaloupes and muskmelons are sold in the United States under both names, interchangeably. “European Cantaloupe has a smooth skin which is much harder than American muskmelon. Cantaloupe also has a more subtle flavor and it is not commercially grown in the United States, mainly due to the fact that the muskmelon is easier to grow and has a stronger taste.  If you want a real European Cantaloupe you are either going to have to hunt for a local farmer that grows them or you will have to find them in Europe and/or Mediterranean countries.”

And so the debate goes on.

The produce guru I go to at GoFresh is Russ Hickson. He informed me that melons in general are constantly cross pollinated with other melons. One year we might have a new look so we give it a different name but then the next year the genetics don’t work the same and we have another new melon. Wikipedia on Muskmelons mentions under genetics that “Muskmelons are monoecious plants. They do not cross with watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin, or squash, but varieties within the species intercross frequently. The genome of Cucumis melo L. was first sequenced in 2012.”

Muskmelon? Cantaloupe? Who are you?


If their names are used interchangeably, maybe it is the same in recipes. I think it is worth the experiment.

Allrecipes has 40 options to try.
From on the grill, in a soup, or in a smoothie enjoy something new while you Eat, Live & GoFresh.

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