What Is Muskmelon?
Muskmelon (Cucumis melo) is a species of melon that belongs to the gourd family. It is cultivated in a variety of ways, with one cultivar being the cantaloupe. Other types of muskmelon include honeydew, Persian melon, casaba, and Armenian cucumber. Although the term “muskmelon” represents a group of melons, it is often used interchangeably with cantaloupe; however, there is a technical difference.
Muskmelon is native to Iran, aka Persia, but is now grown around the world in a variety of species. A couple of examples are the North American cantaloupe (C. melo var. reticulatus) and the European cantaloupe (C. melo var. cantalupensis).
There are smooth-skinned varieties like honeydew and casaba as well as those with a net-like surface, which includes cantaloupe. No matter the variety, all muskmelons are a good source of valuable nutrition that can promote health benefits.
Muskmelon vs. Cantaloupe
Although people commonly refer to cantaloupe as muskmelon or vice versa, it should be noted that there is a difference. So here’s a little rule to remember: all cantaloupes are muskmelon, but not all muskmelons are cantaloupes. Cantaloupes are a type of muskmelon.
But there is even variation among cantaloupes. For example, although they are both muskmelons (and cantaloupes), the North American and European versions mentioned above have some distinct characteristics. The North American cantaloupe has a tan, netted skin and a more subtle version of the sweet, musky flavor found in its European counterpart. The European cousin also has a flat, light-green skin.
From a nutritional standpoint, however, the two are virtually identical.
Muskmelon Nutrition Profile
Because muskmelon can refer to a variety of melons, there is a certain—albeit slight—degree of variability in the nutritional profile. Honeydew, for example, is not exactly the same as cantaloupe when it comes to nutritional value. That said, both—and all—varieties are nutrient-dense and fit easily into any healthy diet.
Muskmelons are generally high in vitamin C, and some types—particularly cantaloupe and other orange varieties—are high in vitamin A. Muskmelons are also largely a good source of antioxidants like gallic acid, ellagic acid, and caffeic acid. Cantaloupe also contains choline, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin.
Here is the nutritional information for one cup of diced cantaloupe, followed by the same amount of honeydew:
|Nutrient||Amount||% Daily Value|
|Total Carbohydrate||13.7 g||5%|
|Vitamin A||5276 IU||106%|
|Vitamin C||57.2 mg||95%|
|Vitamin K||3.9 mcg||5%|
|Vitamin B6||0.1 mg||6%|
|Nutrient||Amount||% Daily Value|
|Total Carbohydrate||15.5 g||5%|
|Vitamin C||30.6 mg||51%|
|Vitamin A||85 IU||2%|
|Vitamin B6||0.1 mg||7%|
Muskmelon Health Benefits
Muskmelon offers a number of potential health benefits based on its rich nutritional profile. While it’s unlikely that muskmelon in particular will prevent or treat a condition, its vitamin and antioxidant content can help promote a healthy, functional body.
Immune System Strength/Function
Because muskmelon is a great source of both vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as a variety of antioxidants, it can promote better immune health and potentially reduce the risk, strength, and duration of a variety of illnesses.
Reduces Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration to Maintain Sight
Cantaloupe and other orange muskmelons are a good source of zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is an important antioxidant known to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and help maintain good eye health. AMD is the leading cause of vision impairment among older adults.
May Help Reduce Inflammation
Eating a plant-based diet with more nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables is closely associated with reduced inflammation. Lower levels of systemic inflammation could potentially reduce the likelihood of heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
There is also evidence that cantaloupe extract may possess powerful anti-inflammatory effects. The results come from an animal study, however, and more work needs to be done to see if there is a similar effect on humans. In any event, eating more plant-based foods is a good way to fight back against systemic inflammation.
Varieties of muskmelon like honeydew and cantaloupe are great to have close by during the summer because of their high water and electrolyte content. These melons can help you stay hydrated and function optimally in the summer heat.
May Promote Heart Health
Diets high in plant-based foods can promote heart health, having the potential to reduce blood pressure and total cholesterol and promote heart function. Antioxidants in muskmelon like vitamin C can help quell inflammation that may elevate blood pressure.
Nutrients like potassium and fiber also aid heart health by helping the organ pump and improving cholesterol profile, respectively. These nutrients are also associated with lower stroke risk.
How to Eat Muskmelon
Muskmelon can be sliced and enjoyed on its own as a snack, used as an addition to salads, or included as a side dish at breakfast. Melon balls can even be made to add to your favorite summer cocktail or accompany a sweet wine.
But you don’t want to be disappointed, so here’s how to pick and store muskmelons to guarantee freshness.
When a muskmelon is ripe, it should have a crown-like formation at the stem. The exterior should be firm, without soft spots. You can tap it with your knuckles to test the density—and the denser, the better. There should be a slight, sweet scent when you sniff it.
Once purchased, it can be refrigerated for several days.
1. Cantaloupe Salsa
Time: 10 minutes Servings: 1 cup
2 cups cantaloupe (or other orange melon), diced
1 cup cucumber, diced
1 serrano chili, stemmed, halved, and sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (roughly)
1/2 cup red onion, chopped (finely)
3 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, and mix well. The salsa can be made up to one day in advance and refrigerated.
2. Cantaloupe Salad and Pork Cutlets
2 cups cantaloupe, thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red chili, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (roughly)
2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp fish sauce
Pork Cutlet Ingredients:
4 1/2-inch-thick pork cutlets
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
Coarse sea salt
1 cup cantaloupe, coarsely grated
Crushed peanuts (roasted and salted)
- Combine scallions, chili, thinly sliced cantaloupe, cilantro, fish sauce, and two tablespoons of lime juice in a medium bowl. Toss to coat evenly. Set aside.
- Use a fork to prick the pork on all sides and season with salt. Place cutlets in a large plastic bag and add coarsely grated cantaloupe, remaining lime juice, and oil. Seal the bag and stir the meat to coat evenly; chill for one hour.
- Set the grill to medium-high heat. Remove cutlets from the bag and place on grill. Turn until browned and cooked through, roughly four minutes. Transfer to a platter.
- Top pork with prepared cantaloupe salad and sprinkle with roasted peanuts.
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