Melons are highly regarded around the world for their delicious, sweet tastes. Botanically they are classified as a type of berry, making them a fruit; however, some types of melons are used as a culinary vegetable depending on the melon, dish, and other circumstances. Melons are also popular in various types of drinks and beverages. Regardless of how they will ultimately be consumed, quality and freshness are key factors and begin with proper cooling and storage methods. Let’s take a look at best post-harvest cooling and storage methods for several types of melons including cantaloupes, honey dews, casabas, Persian, crenshaw, and watermelon.
Cooling Information for Cantaloupes and Persian Melons
Cantaloupes, sometimes also spelled “cantelope” or “cantaloup” are the most popular type of melon in the United States. They are very closely related to Persian melons with both belonging to a group of melons known as muskmelons. Their scientific name is Cucumis melo cantalupensis and they are considered different cultivars of the same species. Persian melons are slightly larger than cantaloupes and have a slightly darker green rind, both have orange flesh. The following information applies most directly to cantaloupes but is similar for Persian melons.
Harvesting – Cantaloupes are typically harvest at either “full slip” or “¾ slip.” This refers to their ripeness and sugar levels. At full slip the cantaloupes will separate cleanly from the vine, while at 3/4 slip there will be noticeable but not full separation. Full slip fruit are sweeter and more flavorful but do not last as long after harvest. By contrast a ¾ slip fruit is usually considered sweet enough to harvest and will have a longer shelf life.
Shelf Life – Full slip cantaloupes have a shelf life of about 5 to 14 days after harvest. By contrast a ¾ slip cantaloupe will last about 15 to 21 days after harvest under ideal conditions.
Handling – Cantaloupes are prone to fungal rot after harvesting. To reduce or prevent this problem they are often submerged in hot water, about 120°F- 130°F, for 1-2 minutes. They should then be dried and cooled as quickly as possible to maintain quality.
Temperature – Cantaloupes should be stored at a temperature of about 36°F-41°F. Lower temperatures will risk chill damage while higher temperatures may be insufficient to adequately reduce respiration and decay.
Humidity – Cantaloupes should be stored at a relative humidity of about 95%. Lower humidity levels will risk dehydration.
Forced-Air Cooling – For best results cantaloupes should be cooled with the forced-air cooling method. This involves placing them in a refrigerated room and forcing air ventilation around them to more rapidly cool them than room cooling alone could achieve.
Cooling Information for Honeydew and Other Muskmelons
After cantaloupes the most popular and widely known type of muskmelon in the United States is the honeydew melon. Like cantaloupes and Persian melons, honeydew melons are a type of muskmelon. Honeydew belongs to the species Cucumis melo inodorus. Along with honeydew other varieties of muskmelons in this species include casaba melons and crenshaw melons. Honeydew melons are known for their green flesh and are somewhat smaller than cantaloupes. The following cooling information most directly applies to honeydew melons but is similar for casaba melons, crenshaw melons, and other melons of the Cucumis melo inodorus variety.
Harvesting – Honeydew melons do not separate from the vine in the same way that cantaloupe slip levels can be determined. Instead honeydew melons are harvested when their ground color changes from green and fuzzy to creamy white and waxy. Ripe honeydew may also have yellow accents on their rinds.
Shelf Life – Under optimal conditions honeydew melons may have a shelf life of up to 3 weeks.
Temperature – Honeydew melons do not require temperatures as cold as cantaloupes. About 45°F is optimal.
Humidity – Honeydew melons also do not require quite as high a relative humidity as cantaloupes. About 85%-90% is optimal.
Forced-Air Cooling – Like cantaloupes, honeydew melons should be cooled using the forced-air method. Room cooling alone may take too long to sufficiently lower the honeydews’ temperature to prevent premature decay.
Cooling Information for Watermelons
Watermelons are not muskmelons and are not as closely related to cantaloupes, honeydew, and other melons mentioned in this article as those melons are to each other. Watermelons belong to the Citrullus lanatus species. They have a smooth, hard rind that is usually green with darker green stripes. Inside their flesh is typically a deep red. Some varieties of watermelons may have yellow spots on their rinds and may have pink, orange, or white flesh. Both seeded and seedless varieties exist and watermelon size and weight varies. Different varieties may call for slightly different care but in general the following is true for watermelon cooling and harvesting.
Harvesting – Watermelon are harvested when the portion of the melon resting on the ground changes from a pale white to a creamy yellow. The vine tendril attached to the watermelon will also often begin to wilt and seeded varieties will have usually developed hardened seed coats.
Shelf Life – Watermelons typically last about 2-3 weeks after harvest.
Temperature – Watermelons require warmer temperatures than cantaloupes and honeydew with a range of about 50°F-59°F yielding a shelf life of about 2 weeks and a range of about 45°F-50°F yielding a shelf life of about 3 weeks. However, temperatures at and below 45°F may result in chill damage and should be avoided.
Humidity – Watermelons should be kept in an environment with a relative humidity of about 85%-90% to prevent dehydration.
Room Cooling – Room cooling is typically sufficient to cool watermelons. This involves placing them in a refrigerated room or cooler and allowing them to naturally adjust to ambient temperatures.
Semco provides high quality, customizable cooling and storage solutions for melons and produce. Regardless of the particular type of melon our customers need to cool and store we can develop a personalized system that best meets their needs and priorities. Our goal is to help our customers get fresh, delicious melons into stores and onto consumers’ plates.