How to Tell If a Cantaloupe is Ripe

Close up view of a ripe cantaloupe still attached to the vine.

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Knowing when to pick a cantaloupe can make all the difference to the flavor. Here’s everything you need to know about how to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe.

When most people think of edible gardening, they think of tomatoes, cucumbers, and other standard vegetables. But one of our favorite things to grow is fruit—watermelon and cantaloupe, in particular. A homegrown melon is so sweet and juicy compared to what you typically find at the store. But how do you know if a cantaloupe is ripe? There are just a few things to look for to get the best, juiciest cantaloupe every time.
Nearly ripe cantaloupe are growing in a patch of plants. The front melon rests on a piece of styrofoam to lift it off the soil.

How can I tell if a cantaloupe is ripe on the vine?

Look for these signs to determine if your cantaloupe is ripe:

  • Full netting on the rind. When a cantaloupe is nearing ripeness, it will develop a netting that looks like raised ridges all over the fruit.
  • Check for “full slip.” Cantaloupe will tell you when they are ready for harvest by “slipping” off the vine. A light touch should make a ripe melon come right off the vine—this is called “full slip.” If a light tug on the stem end doesn’t make the cantaloupe come straight off the vine, then it probably isn’t ready. Check again daily for full slip for the best cantaloupe.
  • Look at the color under the netting. For traditional orange cantaloupes, the color of the rind under the netting will turn from green to beige, sandy gold, or creamy yellow when the fruit is ripe.
  • Give it a sniff. Smell the blossom end of the fruit. If it doesn’t have much aroma at all, it probably isn’t ready yet. A ripe cantaloupe will have a sweet, almost musky scent.
  • Check the seed packet. Check the seed package for the days to maturity. If you are growing a melon that takes 80 days to maturity and it has only been 60 days, you probably don’t have a ripe cantaloupe.

Growfully Protip

If you’re trying to buy a ripe cantaloupe at the grocery store, look for the full netting, the color of the rind, and a sweet scent. The rind should still be firm, and there should be no soft spots, bruises, or discoloration. 

Will cantaloupe ripen after picked?

Unfortunately, not really. Once harvested,  cantaloupes will get softer and juicier, but they won’t get any sweeter. 

Round slices of a ripe cantaloupe melon.

Why isn’t my cantaloupe sweet?

When melons are watery and flavorless, it usually means they were picked too early. Make sure your cantaloupe has that full netting on the rind and full slip for sweet, juicy cantaloupe!

Can a cantaloupe sit on the vine for too long?

Not really, because when a cantaloupe gets really ripe, it will just fall right off the vine onto the ground! If it sits there for too long, the flesh will start to turn mushy and then rot. So make sure that when it is close to harvest time, you are checking daily for ripe cantaloupe!

Twine nets support cantaloupe melon growing on a trellis.

How long can a cantaloupe sit on the kitchen counter?

Uncut cantaloupes from the garden should be fine at room temperature for 10-14 days. A cantaloupe from the produce section of your grocery store will be good for a much shorter time because it had to travel to get there. Once cut, all cantaloupe should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within 3-5 days.

If your cantaloupe is starting to taste slightly of alcohol, it is going bad. Depending on how far gone it is, you’ll either want to finish eating it that day, or toss it in the compost.

Growfully Protip

If you are drowning in fresh melon and want to get a longer storage time out of your fruit, try freezing it! Learn how to freeze cantaloupe, as well as the cocktails and desserts we love to make with melon as an ingredient, here.

Download Printable Cantaloupe Growing Guide »

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Cassie is a Certified Master Gardener and the founder of Growfully. She's been gardening organically for over two decades, and she's so excited to answer all the questions you have about gardening!

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Meet Cassie
Meet Your Guide

Hi! My name is Cassie.

I’m a Certified Master Gardener and founder of Growfully. I’ve been gardening organically for over two decades, and I’m so excited to answer all the questions you have about gardening!

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