The Cantaloupe Quandary

By Debbie Koenig

I swear, my kid can eat his body weight in cantaloupe. OK, maybe not his body weight—but last week on a car trip, he demolished a two-quart container that was meant for the whole family. Junior ate eight cups of cut cantaloupe (and his digestive system was as happy about that as you might expect).

I’m thrilled that he loves fruit so much, but when it comes to cantaloupe in particular, I get a little nervous. Because of the rough netting on the rind, this kind of melon is prone to hold onto bacteria. And when you cut into it, you can drive that bacteria into the fruit itself. You’ve probably seen news reports about this year’s outbreak, which sickened 77 people and sent 36 of them to the hospital.

Because of this, I no longer buy precut cantaloupe. Instead, I buy whole melons at the farmers market, then follow the instructions on this handy fact sheet: Prompt refrigeration, lots of handwashing before and after touching the melon, and a good scrub with a vegetable brush before the first cut.

Learning to cut a whole melon took a bit of practice, so I thought I’d share my technique with you:

  1. Scrub-a-dub, as discussed.
  2. Use a large knife to cut through the center of the melon, then scoop out the seeds from both halves.
  3. Place one half facedown on the cutting board, and carefully slice off the top, enough that you expose the fruit.
  4. Starting at the edge of the exposed top, slice down the side of the melon, following the natural curve. Aim to remove one or two inches of rind at a time along the curve. Rotate the melon on the cutting board and repeat, until you’ve removed all the rind.
  5. Go back over the fruit, slicing off any remaining green bits.
  6. Slice the cleaned melon half as if it were a loaf of bread.
  7. Move the sliced melon to the side of your cutting board, and stack two or three slices in front of you (more than that will be too slippery to work with). Chop into chunks.
  8. Repeat with the other half.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Once it’s all cut, wash your hands again, transfer the fruit to an airtight storage container, and refrigerate immediately. And whatever you do, don’t let your kid eat eight cups’ worth at once.

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