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Cantaloupe Facts, Nutrients, Health Benefits, and Safety

Linda Crampton is a teacher with an honors degree in biology. She enjoys exploring nutrition as well as the culture and history of food.

A Popular and Tasty Melon

Cantaloupes are the most popular melons in the United States. They are sometimes known as muskmelons. Their beautiful orange flesh has a sweet and delicious taste and a fragrant aroma. Cantaloupes are nutritious fruits that contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. They are a great melon to eat on their own or to use in fruit salads, smoothies, or desserts.

Cantaloupes belong to the family Cucurbitaceae, or the gourd family. The family includes pumpkins, watermelons, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers. It also includes members of the genus Luffa. The mature fruits of this genus have a fibrous texture and are used to make luffa (or loofah) sponges. There are some useful fruits and vegetables in the family Cucurbitaceae.

The outer rind or skin of a North American cantaloupe is predominantly a buff or pale orange color. It's covered with ridges arranged in a net-like pattern, which creates a distinctive appearance. The indentations in the net are often pale green. The inner lining of the rind is green and the flesh of the ripe fruit is orange. The presence of indentations on the surface of a cantaloupe means that an important precaution should be taken before using it. The outer surface of the rind can trap harmful bacteria and should be washed carefully before it’s cut.

Types of Cantaloupes

The scientific name of cantaloupes is Cucumis melo. This is the scientific name of most melons, which are close relatives of each other. The European cantaloupe and the North American one are different varieties of Cucumis melo. The European variety is referred to as the “true” cantaloupe. It has the scientific name Cucumis melo var. cantalupensis. Unlike the North American variety, it has either a smooth surface with no netting or a lightly netted surface.

The photos in this article show the variety that I find in my local stores (Cucumis melo var. reticulatus). The facts in the sections below apply to this variety. The fruits have a strongly reticulated or net-like pattern on their skin. Different cultivars of the species exist in North America. The word “cultivar” is derived from the term “cultivated variety.” The cultivars are often referred to by attractive and/or descriptive terms instead of scientific ones. Examples include the Hearts of Gold, Sugar Cube, Ambrosia, and Athena cultivars of the North American cantaloupe.

The origin of the name "cantaloupe" is unknown. The leading theory is that the plant is named after Cantaluppi or Cantalupo, a papal estate that once existed near Rome. This estate is traditionally thought to have been the first European site to cultivate the plant. Africa, Iran, and India have all been suggested as the place where the plant originated.

An uncut cantaloupe

An uncut cantaloupe

Cleaning the Rind to Prevent Foodborne Illness

Both Salmonella and Listeria bacteria may be present on the rind of a cantaloupe. These organisms can cause foodborne illness. Before a cantaloupe is cut, the rind should be scrubbed with a hard brush. The brush should be cleaned afterwards so that it doesn’t contaminate other food. If an uncleaned rind is cut with a knife, bacteria may be transported to the flesh of the fruit, contaminating it.

The fruit should be eaten soon after cutting so that any bacteria on the flesh have only a short time to multiply. Cut cantaloupe must be kept in the refrigerator in a covered container and should be eaten within three days.

Beta-Carotene and Vitamin C

Cantaloupes are rich in beta-carotene, which our bodies change into vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed to keep our eyes and skin healthy and our immune systems working efficiently.

Cantaloupes are also an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps to maintain healthy skin and gums, stimulates wound healing, enables the body to make the collagen found in muscles and skin, and helps iron to be absorbed in the small intestine. It may also improve the functioning of the immune system, although evidence for this is mixed.

Vitamins A and C are antioxidants. These are substances that neutralize chemicals called free radicals, preventing them from damaging our DNA. Free radicals are produced by chemical reactions in our bodies. A high concentration of the chemicals in the body may contribute to the development of certain diseases. Some researchers theorize that free radicals also contribute to the aging process.

Clinical trials in which people have taken antioxidant supplements have had very mixed results, with some trials showing no benefit with respect to a health problem—or even harm from taking the supplements—while others have shown benefits. However, plenty of research has shown that eating whole fruits and vegetables containing natural antioxidants and many other helpful substances is beneficial.

Some Other Nutrients in the Fruit

Cantaloupes are also rich in potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral for muscle contraction and the heartbeat. In addition, cantaloupes provide smaller but useful amounts of other vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin B6, vitamin K, and magnesium.

A ripe cantaloupe contains a lot of fructose, which gives it sweetness. Unlike sucrose (table sugar), fructose doesn't increase the blood sugar level dramatically. It is a type of sugar, however, and shouldn't be eaten in excess. If you use very ripe cantaloupe in your recipes, you probably won't have to add any other sweetener to them.

An interesting macro photo of cantaloupe rind or skin

An interesting macro photo of cantaloupe rind or skin

Using the Seeds

The center of a cantaloupe contains a cavity in which the seeds and fibers are located. These are safe to eat. Make sure that you use seeds taken from a cantaloupe that you have cut open, however. Don't eat ones from a seed packet or seeds that have germinated, which may not be safe, depending on what treatments they've had.

The raw seeds are hard and aren't very tasty. Roasting them with vegetable oil and spices improves the texture and produces a delicious taste. You may have to save washed and dried cantaloupe seeds in a refrigerator until you have enough to roast. The seeds can be cooked in oil in a frying pan until they turn light brown. They need about ten minutes in the pan.

Some people use both the cantaloupe fruit and the raw seeds to make a milk by placing them in a blender with water and then filtering the mixture after blending. The seeds reportedly contain protein and fat as well as some carbohydrate.

Choosing a Fruit

When you're buying a cantaloupe in a store, choose one that feels heavy for its size and has no bruises, dents, entirely green areas, or soft spots. The fruit should have a pleasant aroma. You may be able to buy cantaloupe at any time of the year, but the summer ones are more likely to have been grown nearby and will taste sweeter.

It's unnecessary for healthy people to avoid buying cantaloupes because of the fear of bacterial contamination (with one possible exception, as described below). The taste of a ripe cantaloupe is too good to miss unless this is essential. It is important to wash the fruit before using it, though.

Planting the Seeds and Producing the Fruit

I love cantaloupes, but I've never grown any. People with experience growing cantaloupes say that the freshly picked, homegrown fruit is tastier than store-bought fruit. In a suitable climate, it doesn't seem to be too difficult to grow the plants. They need sunlight, heat, and a good water supply that doesn't saturate the soil. Growers say that when the fruits are ready to pick they detach from their stems easily, almost slipping off the stems on their own.

Cantaloupe seeds are sometimes planted in mounds or hills to allow excess water to drain away from the plants. The usual recommendation is to plant five or six seeds about two inches apart and about one inch deep in each mound. The mounds should be four to six inches apart. The seedlings will need to be thinned once they've germinated. The plants grow well next to a trellis.

The seeds can be planted in pots indoors and then transplanted outdoors once they have germinated. It's very important that the roots aren't disturbed as the seedlings are placed in their permanent home.

It's recommended that cantaloupe seeds aren't planted until the soil temperature has reached at least 70°F. In temperate climates with a short growing season, the soil can be covered with black plastic to warm it up, as long as there are holes cut in the plastic.

Salmonella is a rod-shaped bacterium.

Salmonella is a rod-shaped bacterium.

Salmonella Infection Facts

Cantaloupes are occasionally recalled due to the presence of bacteria, such as Salmonella, which can cause foodborne illness. Listeria is sometimes a contaminant on cantaloupes, but Salmonella seems to be a more frequent problem. The bacteria are located on the rind but can easily be spread to the flesh once the cantaloupe is opened. The most common species of Salmonella involved in food poisoning is Salmonella enteritidis.

Possible symptoms of a salmonella infection include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle pain, fever, and chills. The symptoms appear after an incubation period, which ranges from eight to forty-eight hours after infection. The unpleasant effects of the infection generally last for two to five days but may last as long as two weeks.

Salmonella bacteria can often survive and even multiply in the digestive tract of humans. Bacteria may be shed in the feces for months after a person has apparently recovered from the infection. Animals can develop salmonella infections, too. Most infections in humans are caused by eating food contaminated by animal feces. This food includes meats as well as fruits and vegetables. Food hygiene is very important when using raw meat in the kitchen. Fortunately, Salmonella bacteria are killed by cooking.

Dealing With a Salmonella Infection

The immune systems of healthy people are usually able to destroy Salmonella bacteria, resulting in relatively mild infection symptoms that may require no treatment apart from drinking lots of fluids. If symptoms are severe or last for a long time, however, a doctor should be consulted. Young children, elderly people, and people with weak immune systems may become seriously ill from a salmonella infection and require hospitalization.

Anyone with serious symptoms or ones that last a long time after eating cantaloupe should visit a doctor. This is especially important for people in high-risk groups.


Listeria monocytogenes is most likely to be found in dairy foods made of unpasteurized milk, deli meats, and raw seafood. In recent times, however, it has also appeared on salad greens and cantaloupes. Elderly people, pregnant women, fetuses, and people with weakened immune systems are most susceptible to ill effects from the bacterial infection.

An infected person may develop gastrointestinal problems, muscle pain, or fever, as in a Salmonella infection. Sometimes the bacterium may cause more serious effects, such as confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. Another potentially serious problem is that a pregnant woman's developing baby may be harmed by the bacterium. Listeriosis is sometimes a major disease.

Care Is Necessary

It's important for everyone—even those people who aren't in a high-risk group—to clean cantaloupes thoroughly before cutting them. If you do this, you should have safe access to the delicious and nutritious flesh of the cantaloupe as well as its useful seeds. Pregnant women should consult their doctor about the advisability of including cantaloupes in the diet, however. Anyone else who has concerns about eating the fruit should also consult a doctor. The fruit can be an excellent component of the diet for many people, but it must be prepared properly and avoided if necessary.


  • Nutrients in cantaloupes from SELF Nutrition Data
  • Cantaloupe information from WebMD
  • Types of cantaloupes from the San Francisco Chronicle
  • Information about antioxidants from the Harvard School of Public Health
  • Food safety tips for avoiding a Salmonella infection (and other types of foodborne illness) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Listeriosis information from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 26, 2019:

Thank you for commenting, Liza. I love cantaloupe, too!

Liza from USA on June 26, 2019:

I absolutely love cantaloupe. It is one of my favorite fruits besides pineapple and mango. I remember my husband was a little bit worried every time I want to buy the fruit because he just concern about the news report. Of course, I clean the fruit before eating it :) . Great article!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 13, 2018:

Hi, Cynthia. I appreciate your comment. All the best to you, too!

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on July 13, 2018:

Great comprehensive article about the canteloupe. I am definitely going to start cleaning the rind with a hard brush-- feeling blessed not to have contracted any bacterial infections inspite of all these years of ignorance! All the best!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 06, 2015:

Thank you very much, Kristen.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 06, 2015:

Great hub about the canteloupe. Very interesting to learn about this fruit.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 11, 2012:

Thanks for the comment and the votes, phdast7! I love cantaloupe as well - it's my favorite melon.

Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on July 11, 2012:

I love canteloupe! Good to know about the seeds - it had never occurred to me! Interesting and useful hub. Lots of votes. :)

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 10, 2012:

Thank you very much, homesteadbound. I appreciate your comment!

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on July 10, 2012:

i had no idea you could eat the seeds. Thanks so much for such a well written hub. it is obvious you did your homework on this one!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 10, 2012:

Hi, nmdonders. Thanks for the comment. I never used to wash cantaloupes either, but after the report of one nasty episode of foodborne illness caused by cantaloupes I realized how important it was!

Nira Perkins on July 10, 2012:

I know a lot of people that don't wash melons before cutting them because they probably don't even think about it. I like your idea with eating the seeds I will have to try that. Thanks for the great info.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 10, 2012:

Thank you very much for both the comment and the vote, Lesley! I appreciate your visit.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on July 10, 2012:

I love cantaloupe melons but had never thought of eating the seeds, a fabulous hub thank you and voted up.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 09, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Tom. I'm glad that cantaloupes are tasty and are also a good source of nutrients like vitamin C and potassium. That makes a good reason for me to eat lots of cantaloupe! Thank you very much for the vote.

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on July 09, 2012:

Hi my friend love all this great information about cantaloupes i did not know you could eat the seeds but i did know that they did contain both Vitamin C and potassium . Well done !

Vote up and more !!!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 09, 2012:

I love the idea of eating cantaloupe with ice cream, Susan! I'm going to try that soon - it sounds delicious. Thank you for the comment.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 09, 2012:

Hi, vespawoolf. Yes, it's very nice to know that cantaloupe is nutritious as well as delicious! Thanks for the visit and the vote.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on July 09, 2012:

I never knew you could roast and eat the seeds from the cantaloupe. I enjoy eating this fruit all year round and when I was a child my grandmother would would cut the cantaloupe in half, remove the seeds and fill it with ice cream. Made a nice dessert.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 09, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment, the vote and the share, Kelly! I hope you enjoy the roasted cantaloupe seeds.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 09, 2012:

Hi, Nell. Thank you for the visit. I appreciate your comment and the vote!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on July 09, 2012:

I had no idea that cantaloupe contains both Vitamin C and potassium. And eating the seeds is a new idea to me. I'll definitely try it! Here in Peru, there aren't many seeds available so it would be a great alternative to sunflower seeds. Voted up!

kelleyward on July 09, 2012:

This is a fantastic hub. I didn't know I could roast cantaloupe seeds. I have one right now so I'll try this soon. voted up and shared! Kelley

Nell Rose from England on July 09, 2012:

Thats funny that you should mention Salmonella I remember reading about that part a while ago, but forgot that it was cantaloupes they were talking about. Fascinating hub, I learned so much, thanks! voted up and thanks for sharing!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 08, 2012:

Thank you very much for the visit and the comment, HawaiiHeart. It is important to handle cantaloupe carefully. It's a nutritious and tasty fruit, but there have been outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to bacteria on cantaloupes.

HawaiiHeart from Hawaii on July 08, 2012:

I had no idea cantaloupe seeds were edible. Very informative hub and very important info. about safe handling!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 08, 2012:

Hi, Mama Kim 8! It's nice to meet you. Thank you for the comment. I prefer eating the flesh of the cantaloupe, but it's nice to eat the roasted seeds as well!

Sasha Kim on July 08, 2012:

If it wasn't for this hub I would have never know the seeds were edible! I love cantaloupe and now I don't have to "waste" as much ^_^

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 08, 2012:

Thank you very much for the vote and the share, Mary! I appreciate your visit and the comment. I love the taste of cantaloupes, too!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on July 08, 2012:

You have written another very informative Hub here. That photo of the cantaloupe made my mouth water! I love those things. It never occurred to me that the seeds could be eaten.

I voted this UP, and I will share, too.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 08, 2012:

Thank you very much, Joyce. I appreciate your comment and the votes!

Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on July 08, 2012:

Great hub about cantaloupes and very helpful info.

Vote up useful and interesting.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 08, 2012:

Hi, Natasha. Thank you for the comment and the votes! Yes, the seeds are nice when they're roasted. Washing the cantaloupe before cutting it is important, too. It doesn't take long to do with a good scrubbing brush!

Natasha from Hawaii on July 08, 2012:

I don't know why I never thought to cook and eat cantaloupe seeds. I've done it many times with pumpkin seeds. Thanks for the idea! Also, thanks for pointing out that the rind is a great safe-haven for bacteria. It makes sense, now that I think about it, but it had also not really occurred to me. Voted up and useful!

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