Have you eaten cantaloupe before?
It’s this orange-fleshed melon that kind of looks like a small, greenish basketball.
I’ve always been big on watermelon, but in recent years it’s been surpassed by cantaloupe.
Right now, it’s pretty much one of my staple foods — I eat it every other day if I can get my hands on it.
In this post, I want to share my love of this sweet, nutritious fruit with you.
Check out these 12 fascinating facts about cantaloupe!
1. Its Name Is Connected To The Old Popes Of Italy
According to certain historical records, cantaloupe gets its name from a town in the Sabine Hills of Italy, named Cantalupo di Sabina.
The old papacy of Rome had a country estate there, where they first started growing the fruits after an Armenian envoy brought them as gifts.
Pope Paul II was reportedly obsessed with melons — including cantaloupes.
He would often eat them to the point of getting stomach aches.
After he died of a heart attack in 1471, it was even rumored that he perished due to overeating them.
2. Christopher Columbus Was The First To Bring Cantaloupes To America
In 1493, Christopher Columbus took off on his second expedition to the New World, joined by 1200 men aboard 17 ships.
His goal was to explore uncharted territories and set up new colonies in the unpopulated regions.
Besides his mighty crew and great sense of adventure, Columbus also brought with him a load of cantaloupe seeds.
These were planted near the newly-built settlements, as well as being shared with the nearby native populations.
Just like that, Columbus had introduced the tasty melon to the U.S.
Today, it’s one of the most popular fruits in the country.
3. Americans Consumed 7.12 Pounds Of Cantaloupe Per Capita In 2016
In 2017, cantaloupes made up 28% of the total melon sales in the United States.
Despite dropping a bit in popularity since the early 2000’s, it’s still going strong as one of the top fruits among Americans.
California is the biggest producer of the melon — generating 3 times the amount of Arizona, the second largest producing state.
Other prominent cantaloupe-growing states include Texas, Georgia, Indiana, and Colorado.
4. Cantaloupe Is 90% Water
Like most fruit, and all other melons, cantaloupes contain a lot of water — around 90%.
This makes it a great choice for those hot and dry summer days.
Instead of sipping on sugary drinks or eating tons of ice cream, how about some refreshing melons instead?
After all, despite being mostly water, they contain a bunch of health-boosting properties.
Dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Lots of good stuff you won’t get from a slush at 7-11.
5. The Cantaloupe Plant Can Grow 5 Feet Long
Like other melons, cantaloupe grows forth from leafy vines.
These vines can reach anywhere between 1 to 5 feet in length.
If grown near vertical objects, the vines will often attach to them and start (slowly) climbing upwards.
So, unless you want to see some wild, green action alongside your house, make sure to grow them away from your walls.
All in all, though, the vines are considered quite easy to handle, especially if you use trellises.
One cantaloupe plant will typically produce between 5-10 melons each.
6. 1/2 Medium Cantaloupe Will Cover Your Daily Vitamin A & C Needs
As mentioned, cantaloupe is loaded with many beneficial nutrients.
Most notably, the fruit comes with an exceptional amount of vitamin A and C.
One medium-sized cantaloupe will supply you with 3 times the daily minimum requirement for both of these vitamins.
However, that’s around 550 grams worth of melon, which is a bit much for most people.
Cut it in half, though, and you’re still more than covered.
One half of a medium cantaloupe (around 275 g) will give you:
- Vitamin A – 9335 IU (186% of the RDV)
- Vitamin C – 102 mg (169%)
Got to love that nutrient density!
7. It’s Related To Cucumbers And Squash
Cantaloupe is a part of the Cucurbitaceae family — more commonly known as cucurbits or gourds.
This plant family ranks among the top when it comes to percentage of its species used for human consumption.
Members of this group include squash, cucumber, pumpkin, and zucchini, among others.
All of these plants thrive in higher temperatures and are very sensitive to frost.
Because of this, they’re mostly grown in tropical and temperate areas, such as Spain and the Southern U.S.
8. Cantaloupe’s Origins Remain A Mystery
So far, historians have been unable to identify exactly where the first cantaloupes were cultivated.
Some believe that they date back to the biblical period in Egypt and Greece — possibly as far back as 2400 B.C.
Others suggest that they came from Persia (Iran), Armenia and India.
One thing’s for sure, though, they did enjoy some kind of melons in ancient Egypt.
Archeologists have found a number of wall paintings that clearly display the round fruits.
Additionally, the Romans included cantaloupes in their upper-class recipe collection called Apicius.
It’s widely believed that they, like the papacy of later centuries, got them from the Armenians.
9. It Can Take 45 Days To Ripen After Pollination
If you plan on growing your own cantaloupes, you should prepare yourself for a long wait.
After the flowers of the plant have been pollinated, the fruits typically take around 35 to 45 days to ripen.
All in all, it takes the plant about 90 days to go from a seed to producing ripe melons.
As the fruit develops, its surface will become coarser with a more “netted” look, and the color will get a bit more yellowish.
When a cantaloupe is fully matured, the vine will loosen its connection to it, making it effortless to harvest.
An easy way to check for ripeness is to lightly twist the melon — if it comes off easily, it’s most likely ready for consumption.
10. Australians Call It “Rock Melon”
When I was on vacation “down under” a few years ago, an Australian friend of mine asked if I wanted some fresh rock melon.
I was intrigued — I figured this was a type of melon I’d never heard of before.
Turns out that’s just the name for cantaloupes down there (nevertheless, they were absolutely delicious).
Actually, cantaloupe has a bunch of different names.
The full list is as follows:
- Rock melon
- Sweet melon
11. A Pair Of Cantaloupes Were Once Sold For Over $27000
No, that’s not a typo.
In 2016, two ‘premium’ cantaloupes were sold for 3 million yen in Japan.
That converts to around $27240 at the time of purchase!
Japan actually has a booming ‘luxury fruit’ market, where melons are some of the most sought-after produce (including square and pyramid-shaped ones).
Other notable purchases include $4395 for a single tennis-sized strawberry and $9700 for a bunch of grapes.
This may seem insane to most of us, but the idea of luxury fruits fits nicely into Japan’s deep and elaborate culture of gift-giving.
They can be bought for a special occasion, like a wedding, or given to a high-status person as a sign of respect.
Religious-minded individuals may even offer these expensive fruits to their Gods or ancestors.
12. Cantaloupe Is Very Low In Calories
Despite their pleasant, sweet taste, cantaloupes are actually a perfect food if you want to maintain or lose weight.
In fact, it’s one of the fruits with the least amount of calories.
A whole medium-sized cantaloupe (around 550 g) only contains 188 calories.
To put that in perspective, just a single cinnamon roll from McDonalds has almost double that amount — 340.
When you consider that a normal serving size of cantaloupe is 2-3 wedges, it gets even crazier.
With one wedge of cantaloupe flesh (about 70 g) you’ll only consume 24 calories.
In other words, chow down to your heart’s content!
Getting fat from cantaloupe is borderline physically impossible.
Factor in all of the health benefits, and you can easily see why so many people love the sweet, orange-fleshed melon.