22Did you know that cantaloupe is in the berry family and is a cousin to watermelon, honeydew, pumpkins and squash?

The name was cultivated in the 18th century from the cantus region of Italy. They are the most popular melons in the U.S.

Composed of about 90% water, cantaloupes are primarily grown in California, Arizona and Texas, but you will find many of them grown in gardens and farms in the South. They bloom from July to September with mature melons ripening in about 90 days. Cantaloupes do not continue ripening after picking; they are ready to be picked on the vine that can grow up to five feet.

Their blooms carry male and female parts, the female flower has a large bulge at the base. Bees play an important role in the pollination process. Sometimes the plants will carry more female flowers than males and the reason is temperatures higher than 95 degrees.

Attracting bees to your garden is a great way to start growing by introducing plants that pollinate such as sunflower, coneflower, lavender and aster. Nothing can replace the pollination of a honeybee, but it is possible to hand pollinate.

The easiest way is to pluck a male flower and transfer the pollen to the female flower which works about 50% of the time. The male flower is visible by the presence of a stamen and the female flower has a bulge at the base.

There is nothing quite like the taste of sweet cantaloupe. Selecting a good one can be a little tricky if you are not used to it and especially selecting one in the grocery store.
The melon should feel heavier than it looks, the skin tan with a pale color between the netting, the surface firm but not hard and you should be able to smell the aroma. An overpowering smell or mushy surface is an indication that the melon is overripe.

Cantaloupe is good for us for a variety of health reasons other than fiber and water content. It is good for your hair with vitamins A and C, aiding in hydration, and is high in potassium. It is also a good source of vitamins B and C. Cantaloupe also contains a powerhouse of vitamins and hydration, potassium, magnesium, thiamine, niacin and folic acid.

It is a great post workout snack that lessens the chance of having muscle cramps, and fatigue and is good for your blood pressure and heart. In addition, it contains a lot of soluble and insoluble fiber which aid in digestion.

A snack in between meals can satisfy the appetite and is a good filler without adding the calories with a single serving of 60 calories. Eating the seeds can serve as a healthy snack with mixed nuts or eating them alone can aid in digestion.

Cats and dogs might enjoy this refreshing melon. If your cat or dog likes cantaloupe, giving a little bit will not harm them and can be considered one of the unusual things they might like to eat void of the rind. Seeds are safe but are high in fat, be sparing with adding many to your diet or your fur baby. With any of your fur babies, it is advisable to give just a little in case there is a reaction.

There is an abundance of recipes available that are not always associated with salads. You can enjoy a cold cantaloupe soup, drinks, granita, smoothies, dressing and martinis.

Summer is the time to enjoy a wide variety of fresh melons and fruit in many ways.

Live, love life and enjoy summer!

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