Fresh, ripe cantaloupes are refreshing and deliciously juicy. They reach their peak ripeness between June and August, so you can enjoy them all summer long. Cantaloupes are from the muskmelon family; they’re also related to summer squash. These melons are high in potassium and vitamin C and a source of beta-carotene. You can enjoy 1/4 of a melon or 1 cup of the cut-up fruit starting on Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet.
Cantaloupes are picked when ripe and they stop ripening once they leave the vine. This makes it essential to choose a melon that was picked at just the right time. How can you tell if a cantaloupe is ready to eat? The rind should cover the whole fruit and be slightly golden under the mesh-like surface (avoid fruit with a dull-green appearance), but it's natural to see some bleaching on the side where it was lying on the ground. The stem end should have a slight indentation, and the other end should yield to gentle pressure. Avoid melons that are flattened or lopsided. Also, take a sniff; the melon should smell sweet.
Though cantaloupes don't require further ripening at home, you can store them at room temperature for a couple of days. While the sweetness won't change, they will become softer and juicier. Cantaloupe should be refrigerated in an airtight plastic bag or container once cut, and it's best to eat the melon within a couple of days.
Cantaloupe is easy to prepare — simply rinse it first (to remove any exterior bacteria) and then cut it open and remove the seeds. You can then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and eat it on the spot. For a more attractive presentation, cut the fruit into wedges or scoop it out with a melon baller. Cantaloupe makes a nice addition to a fresh fruit salad.