Magnificent Muskmelons: Cantaloupe
by Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers
Cantaloupes, also called muskmelons, have a distinct netted or webbed rind. Dating back beyond 2400 B.C., it is likely the cantaloupe originated in Persia or possibly Afghanistan. In that time, cantaloupes were cultivated over quite a wide span -- from Egypt and across to Northwest India. These sweet and juicy melons were the food of royalty for many cultures.
The cantaloupe is 95 percent water, and all that sweetness comes from the other 5 percent of the fruit. Cantaloupes are a low-calorie, highly-nutritious, nearly no-fat treat. One-fourth of a medium-sized cantaloupe provides 80 percent of the recommended daily allowance for both vitamins A and C. Cantaloupes also contain some iron, calcium, fiber and protein.
In earlier cultures, cantaloupes were thought to have great medicinal properties that included cleansing the body and the skin. These early herbalist were on the right track. Today we know cantaloupes may be helpful to people with heart disease because they contain an anticoagulant called adenosine. They also contain a high level of beta carotene, an antioxidant that's associated with cancer prevention. Abundant in potassium, cantaloupes may also be beneficial to people with high blood pressure.
Age to introduce: 10-12 months (pureed or in small bite-sizes pieces)
Toddler Treat: Out of This Galaxy Cantaloupe Treat
With just a couple minutes of preparation, you can turn a simple cantaloupe into a fantastic galactic treat. Add a piece of whole wheat toast and this recipe becomes a terrific meal to start the day. This recipe is for toddlers and older.
1 medium sized cantaloupe
1 2/3 cups of large curd cottage cheese
1 Tbsp ground almonds, shredded coconut or raisins (or a mixture)
Drizzle of honey (for those over the age of 1 only)
Using a large, sharp knife, cut the cantaloupe crosswise into rings. Trim off the rind and scoop out the seeds. Place each ring on a plate and carefully cut the ring into bite-sized pieces while keeping the ring shape. Using an ice cream scoop, fill the center with a scoop of cottage cheese (about 1/3 cup). Sprinkle a planetary dusting of ground almonds, raisins and coconut over the cottage cheese and drizzle a solar spray of honey on top. Serve.
Makes 5 servings.
Cantaloupe for the Family
At the market: Press gently on the blossom end of the melon. It should be slightly soft. At room temperature, the blossom end should also have a subtle melon fragrance. It is sometimes hard to smell a melon in the store, because they are kept cool. Avoid a melon with a stem, because it was picked too early and will not be sweet.
Storage: Once picked, cantaloupes don't get any sweeter. However, they do "ripen" or soften. For best results, "ripen" cantaloupes at a room temperature for two to four days. After this time, they can be stored in the refrigerator where they'll keep another 10 to 14 days.
Preparation: Using a long, sharp knife, cut the cantaloupe in half. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard them. To remove the fruit from the rind, you can use a melon baller which will make little round-shaped melon pieces. Or you can make melon chunks by slicing the melon half into one-inch crescent moon shapes, then slide the knife around the rind edge to remove the rind. Cut the melon into bite-sized chunks.
Here are some quick ideas to add cantaloupe into your family meals:
Add a dash of flavor: To always have cantaloupe on hand, cut a whole one into chunks, place the pieces in a covered container and keep the container in the refrigerator. Of course plain cantaloupe is delicious, but some people sprinkle their cantaloupe with salt and pepper, others add a dash of powdered ginger or cinnamon. Citrus lovers feel that a sprinkle of lemon or lime juice adds a flavor boost to the cantaloupe. Try them all and you decide which is best.
A tisket, a tasket, a colorful cantaloupe basket: Make a cantaloupe basket with a few cuts into the rind. First scoop out the seeds and discard them. Next, scoop out the fruit using a melon baller. To get nice round melon balls, twist the melon baller 2-3 times before removing the fruit ball. To your basket, add a mixture of the melon balls, watermelon chunks, blueberries and kiwi slices.
Dress for success -- the edible garnish: Impress your family by dressing up an everyday meal. Place a bamboo skewer of cantaloupe chunks alternated with strawberries and fresh mint leaves. Top the skewer with a lime wedge and place at the edge of the each person's dinner plate or across the center.
Awesome Fruit Salsa: This salsa is terrific with tortilla chips, but also fabulous on cheese quesadillas or anything grilled. To whip up a batch of Cantaloupe Salsa simply add the following ingredients to a bowl and toss gently:
1 cup of diced cantaloupe
1 cup of diced fresh tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 diced jalapeno pepper (ribbed and seeded), optional
Salt and pepper, to taste
About the Author:
About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby.
They are the creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats, available at many fine
specialty stores and national chains including Target and Whole Foods Markets.
Let's Get Cooking!
While there are many reasons for teaching kids to cook -- less expensive than eating out, preserves family heritage, etc, the most important
reason is that by teaching your child to cook, you're giving him a better chance to be a healthy grown-up. Enabling your child with the ability
to appreciate freshness and to transform ingredients into tasty foods opens their eyes to making wiser choices about what to eat...