You got a cantaloupe in storage for a few days already. That’s when you wonder: how long does cantaloupe last, and how to tell if it’s bad?
Or you’re a first-time buyer, and you’re not quite sure if you can leave this melon on the counter, or should you refrigerate it.
Either way, this article is for you. In it, we discuss:
- storage time and practices (and if you need to refrigerate cantaloupe or not)
- how to tell if your cantaloupe is ripe
- telling whether yours is spoiled
If you’d like to learn more about any of the mentioned topics, read on.
How Long Does Cantaloupe Last?
A whole cantaloupe keeps for about 5 to 7 days at room temperature and two to maybe three weeks in the fridge. If the fruit is not fully ripe, add an extra 5 to 10 days on the counter. Once you cut up the cantaloupe, it lasts about 4 to 5 days in the fridge.
While cantaloupe is one of the self-picking fruit (it starts to disconnect from the vine when it’s mature), it’s not always harvested ripe.
Cantaloupe melons meant for export are often cut from the plant early so that they stay quite firm and survive transportation in good shape ([MSU]).
Because of that, if you’re buying cantaloupe in the winter or it’s an import, it might not be fully ripe and require a few days on the counter to get to its best quality.
To know if your cantaloupe was harvested ripe, check the stem end. If it’s “dimpled,” it’s been harvested mature. If the woody stem is still attached (and visible), the fruit has been cut off the vine.
Okay, now it would be useful to know if your cantaloupe has matured already, right?
Your cantaloupe is ripe and ready to eat if ([HORT]):
- the flower end (not the stem end) is slightly soft
- the skin between the netting turned from green to yellow
- the fruit has a strong sweet aroma
If at least one of the above is true, your cantaloupe is probably ready. If neither one is, let the fruit sit on the counter until it’s ripe. It usually takes between 5 to 10 days, depending on how long the specimen already sat in the supermarket.
A ripe cantaloupe is sweeter and softer than an unripe one. If you’ve ever eaten one that lacked sweetness or seemed quite firm, it probably wasn’t mature.
How To Store Cantaloupe
An unripe cantaloupe ripens best on the counter. Once it’s ripe, you can leave it at room temperature or refrigerate it, depending on when you plan on eating it. A cut-up cantaloupe needs an airtight container or bag and should sit in the fridge.
If your cantaloupe isn’t ripe yet (read the section above if you’re not sure), put it on the counter or in a fruit bowl until it ripens. Eating it unripe isn’t unsafe, but its quality won’t be that great.
Once the fruit is ripe, you have a choice to make.
Leaving it on the counter is okay if you know you’re going to eat it within a couple of days. Plus, as melons tend to be quite large, it doesn’t take precious space in the fridge.
But if you don’t have any plans and assume you’re going to get to it “one day”, put it in the refrigerator.
If you refrigerate a whole cantaloupe, place it in a sealed plastic bag. That will prevent the fruit’s aroma from flavoring other foods ([HORT]).
Once you cut up the fruit, seal it tightly in an airtight bag (if you’ve halved or quartered it) or a plastic container (if you’ve diced it).
If you only halved or quartered the fruit, don’t remove the seeds. They will help retain moisture for longer ([PUR]).
How To Tell If Cantaloupe Is Bad?
Discard cantaloupes that:
- Feel light, hollow, or super soft. If the melon seems empty inside or the rind is soft, it’s lost most of its water and it’s no good.
- Have large bruises or discolored areas. You can cut off some small damaged areas, but if a fourth of the rind is brown, it’s time for it to go.
- Smell off. If the aroma isn’t sweet and pleasant, but rather sour or pungent, throw it out.
- Are cut up and sit in storage for too long or are moldy. If your cantaloupe half sits in the fridge for like a week, it has to go. Same thing if you can see any signs of mold in the container or bag.
Some of the points above aren’t cut and dried but rather based on your judgment. For those, go with your gut.
If it tells you that cantaloupe is only slightly softer than usual and perfectly fine otherwise, feel free to eat it. But if the smell seems somewhat off and you’d rather not eat that fruit, it’s okay to thrash it.
Finally, if you notice that the rind starts to soften, the melon is going overripe, and the best moment to do something about that is now. You can either eat it the same day, or dice and refrigerate it, and consume within a day or two tops.