July 24, 2013
The cantaloupe differs from the musk melon, which is the variety grown by most modern gardeners, in having pronounced ridges and, in most varieties, many warty protuberances. The Philadelphia nurseryman, Bernard McMahon, described it in 1806: “The true Cantaleupe or Armenian warted Melon, is very scarce in the United States; its fruit is large, roundish and deeply ribbed, a little compressed at both ends, the surface full of warted protuberances, like some species of squash.”
While the true cantaloupe (Cucumis melo, var. cantelupensis) may have been scarce in early 19th century America, it is almost nonexistent today, being entirely supplanted by the netted or musk melon (Cucumis melo, var. reticulatis) and the winter melons such as the honey dew and Crenshaw (Cucumis melo, var. inordrus).
The true cantaloupe also differs from the common musk melon in the method that one appraises its fitness for harvest. The musk melon is judged to be ripe when cracks form around the base of the stem allowing the stem to easily separate or slip from the fruit. Most cantaloupes do not readily slip so ripeness must be decided by the experience of the gardener.
For a more thorough examination of the Cucumis genus you are encouraged to examine Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg way, 18th century methods for today’s organic gardeners (Rodale Press) .