Spanspek anyone? It’s delicious!

Above, cantaloupe fresh from the garden can be a delight, and quite easy to grow. – Tina Johansson/theYOUjournal

by Long Hwa-shu

By all accounts, I consider myself a city farmer.

So after doing some major yard work earlier this summer, including installation of twin raised garden beds and filling them with fresh black dirt, peat moss and sand, we were rewarded with some sweet surprises.

Cantaloupes, sweeter and juicier than any you might find at a grocery store, have been growing like gangbusters. While they are nearing the end of their lifecycle—their umbillacal cord-like vines drying and browning—the plants are still giving us a fresh melon several times a week.

One particular melon was a giant among the rest. Nearly nine inches in circumference, it was just as juicy and flavorful as the others, and one of the best things that came from rejuvenating the soil in our old garden, and ridding it of the former clay and rocks, as well as having the cedar garden boxes built.

Cantaloupes are known as muskmelon’s, mushmelon, rockmelon, sweetmelon, Persian melon and spanspek, as they are called in South Africa.

One of the smaller and the larger canteloupes we grew in our home garden recently. - Tina Johansson/theYOUjournal
One of the smaller and the larger canteloupes grown in a home garden recently.

If you are a bean counter, you would probably shake your head at the high cost of building the raised beds. But truth be told, so far we have enjoyed every penny of the new garden, and likely will, for many years to come.

In the Midwest cantaloupe plants generally produce fruit from June through September.

Cantaloupes are known as muskmelon’s, mushmelon, rockmelon, sweetmelon, and Persian melon. In South Africa they are called spanspek.

According to the United States Department of agriculture, canteloupes are gourds, and are in the same family as squash and pumpkins.

These melons are high in vitamins C and A and high in folate, and come in several varieties.

While cantaloupes are delicious by themselves, why not shake things up and try them with different ingredients? Here are a few recipes:


  Cantaloupe Salsa

½ cantaloupe (large, ripe)

¼ cup red bell pepper, finely diced

¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

3 Tbsp scallions, finely chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Pinch of salt and hot pepper flakes

Remove seeds and rind from cantaloupe. Chop cantaloupe into very small cubes and place in bowl. Add diced red pepper, cilantro, scallions and lime juice. Stir. Add diced red pepper, cilantro, scallions and lime juice. Stir. Add pinch of salt and pepper flakes. Chill. Serve with grilled chicken, fish, or tortilla chips.


Southwest Cantaloupe Salad

½ cup cantaloupe, thinly sliced

½ cup jicama, peeled and sliced thinly

¼ cup red bell pepper, roasted and sliced

¼ cup yellow bell pepper, roasted and sliced

1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped

2 Tbsp fat-free Italian dressing

In medium bowl combine cantaloupe, jicama, red and yellow bell peppers, and basil. Add dressing and mix well.

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