There is nothing more disappointing than biting into a piece of cantaloupe that is sour, unripe or crunchy. This is particularly true when you have taken the time and effort to grow the cantaloupe melons yourself. Growing cantaloupes is rewarding, and familiarizing yourself with common growing and harvesting techniques can mean the difference between a sour or sweet cantaloupe.
A bitter, sour-tasting cantaloupe is a melon whose sugars have not developed correctly. Premature harvesting, overwatering, or disease are all culprits for an odorless, tart-tasting and sour cantaloupe fruit.
Find out how to avoid these gardening missteps and pick out the juiciest cantaloupe melons from the store. And discover ways to reduce the waste of any unripe cantaloupes.
Why Does My Cantaloupe Taste Sour?
A ripe cantaloupe can only be described as deliciously sweet, juicy, and tender. If you bite into a sour cantaloupe, it is usually spoiling, fermenting, or unripe.
If your cantaloupe is fermenting, you may experience a slight fizziness in your mouth and an astringent, sour smell and taste. Due to the sugars in cantaloupe, yeasts can cause it to ferment. It is sadly usually best to instead toss a fermented cantaloupe.
Typically, if your cantaloupe is sour, it is unripe and has not been allowed to develop its sweetness fully. Early harvesting or improper gardening techniques can leave you with a sour, crunchy cantaloupe melon.
How to Tell If a Cantaloupe is Unripe
An unripe cantaloupe will be hard while a ripe cantaloupe will be firm but soften slightly. Your cantaloupe will also be more on the greenish side with little or no aroma unlike your riper melon, which looks a pale yellowish-beige color and has a sweet, pleasant scent.
A ripe cantaloupe’s distinct netting will also be more pronounced than your unripe melon.
Gardening Tips and Advice to Prevent Sour Cantaloupes
Whether your cantaloupe crop is sweet or sour is dependent on several factors, and the sooner you are aware of them, the sooner you should be able to enjoy deliciously sweet cantaloupes.
Cantaloupe Water Requirements
Cantaloupes need a steady supply of water. That being said, overwatering is not ideal as melons have shallow roots. Ensuring moist soil as opposed to waterlogged soil is imperative for the healthy growth of your cantaloupes.
A drip irrigation system works well and should provide a steady, sufficient stream of water to your plants. Care should also ensure that the cantaloupes leaves do not get wet. And this is because wet leaves can result in leaf damage or the development of fungal diseases on the leaves.
Excessive watering will also dilute the sweetness and sugars being distributed to the fruits from the vines, affecting the final sweetness of the cantaloupe when harvested.
Cantaloupe Vine Leaf Care
Special care should be taken on the health of the leaves of the cantaloupes vines. Vines are the secret to the melon’s sweetness, and its leaves produce the sugars needed to sweeten the fruit.
For this reason, do not ever be tempted to remove any growing shoots or leaves from the vines. Keep a watchful eye on your vine and leaf health and immediately treat any fungus or disease. Organic fungicides, aphid deterrents, and other treatments are available in most local nurseries or online garden stores.
A week before harvesting your cantaloupes, it is also recommended to only water your cantaloupes enough to keep them from drooping. This allows the vines to focus on delivering sugars to the cantaloupes to sweeten them.
Cantaloupe Fruit Care
I remember getting very excited when my vines started to produce multiple cantaloupes at a time. I soon realized that more fruits meant smaller and less sweet cantaloupes when harvesting.
It is best to remove any new forming fruits keeping a few cantaloupes growing at a time. Once you harvest a melon, you can allow a new melon to continue to grow. The vine divides its sugars between its fruits, so the fewer fruits, the sweeter the cantaloupes.
Growing multiple cantaloupes off one vine can lead to sour, tasteless, or unhealthy cantaloupes.
When to Harvest Cantaloupe
Picking your cantaloupe too soon will result in a sour, hard, and tasteless melon. Cantaloupes need time to develop their sweetness. Cantaloupes are usually ready for harvesting around 70 to 100 days after being planted.
Unlike other fruits, cantaloupe does not continue to ripen once harvested. They remain as sweet or sour as they are when picked.
A ripe cantaloupe will be yellowish or grey in color with pronounced netting and should not be picked when its skin is still hard and green. This will most definitely result in a sour cantaloupe. If you do not notice any scent from your melon, it is most likely unripe. Additionally, a heavy cantaloupe melon is usually riper than an empty lighter melon.
If your cantaloupe is not easily detaching from the vine, it may not be ready for harvesting. A ripe cantaloupe will easily detach, and the stem will usually be brownish in color and slightly concave.
Quick Delicious Recipes Using Unripe Cantaloupe
I hate wasting food or ingredients and am always looking for unique ways to salvage food that is either unripe or past it’s prime.
Deciding what to do with sour, crunchy, or bitter cantaloupe can be tricky, but luckily there are a couple of fantastic recipe ideas available.
I learned a fabulous tip from a friend, where you sprinkle a little salt on your cantaloupe and grill it — and it’s delicious served with some ice cream on the side.
Here are some additional recipe ideas for using that unripe cantaloupe that you are unsure what to do with:
Mixing your sour Cantaloupe with some mango, orange juice, or honey can result in a delicious, easy, and refreshing soup. Adding some sweetness from other fruits or sources can make this a wonderful sweet and sour dish.
Here are a couple of recipes for making some of these chilled cantaloupe soup options.
Chilled Cantaloupe Soup – from From a Chef’s Kitchen.
Chilled Cantaloupe Soup with Lemon and Ginger – from Gimme Some Oven.
Unripe cantaloupe can be used successfully to make jams by adding spices, other fruits, and sugar.
Salted Cantaloupe Jam – from Wholefully is delicious and will work well with unripe cantaloupe. Add additional sugar or reduce the lemon juice amount according to taste and the acidity of your cantaloupe melon.
A great way to make use of that unripe cantaloupe is to juice them. Blend the cantaloupe with pineapple, ginger, and lime to make a refreshing juice.
Here is a quick and easy option for making Cantaloupe Juice with Ginger and Lime.
Numerous other smoothie recipes are available online that incorporate cantaloupe with other sweet fruits, ginger, lemon, or lime.
Improve the Taste of Sour Cantaloupe
There are a couple of tricks to reduce an unripe cantaloupe melon’s sour taste and enhance its flavor.
You would think that adding something sour or acidic to an already bitter melon would make the problem worse, but surprisingly, it does the opposite.
Squeezing some lemon or lime on your cantaloupe or rubbing salt on the melon’s flesh brings out the flavor and makes up for the lack of sweetness.
Parboiling an unripe cantaloupe is also a widely used method for improving its taste. Slicing the cantaloupe and boiling it for one or two minutes or until tender will help to reduce the melon’s sour tang and make it more appetizing.
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