|Cucumis melo reticulatus |
A Cantaloupe (Cucumis melo, or Cucumis melo reticulatus), also spelled cantaloup, also called rockmelon, is actually the North American name for a variety of muskmelon. "True cantaloupes are not netted, have deep grooves, a hard warty rind, and orange or green flesh. These are grown only in Europe where the population easily makes the distinction between muskmelons and cantaloupes"  (http://www.vegparadise.com/highestperch46.html). The muskmelons that most Americans call "cantaloupes" have a distinctly netted or webbed rind (illustration, right).
The North American canteloupe, developed by the W. Atlee Burpee Company and introduced in 1881 as the "Netted Gem", is a round melon with firm, orange, moderately sweet flesh and a thin, reticulated, beige to light-brown rind. Varieties with redder and yellower flesh exist, but are uncommon, and are not considered to be as flavorful as the more common orange variety. Cantaloupes belong to family Cucurbitaceae, which includes nearly all melons and squashes. Cantaloupes are typically 15–25 cm in length. Like all melons, cantaloupes grow best in sandy, well-aerated, well-watered soil that is free of encroaching weeds.
For commercial plantings, one hive per acre (4,000 m˛ per hive) is the minimum recommendation by the United States Department of Agriculture for pollination. Good pollination is important, not only for the number of fruits produced, but also for the sugar content of these fruits.
Cantaloupe was named after the commune Cantalupo in Sabina, in the Sabine Hills near Tivoli, Italy, a summer residence of the Pope, where it was originally cultivated around 1700 from seeds brought from Armenia, part of the homeland of melons. The cantaloupe found in North America is actually a variety of the muskmelon that Columbus is said to have brought to the New World on his second voyage in 1494.
The most widely cultivated variety of true cantaloupe is the Charentais, almost exclusive to France. Its lightly ribbed, pale green skin looks quite different from the North American variety. Pope Innocent XIII, who reigned from 1721 to 1724, is said to have enjoyed sipping a kind of port wine from the cavity of a half-melon at the beginning of a meal as an apéritif.
Melon pieces wrapped in prosciutto make a familiar modern antipasto.
- Vegetarians in Paradise: (http://www.vegparadise.com/highestperch46.html) Cantaloupe (offers some general melon history)