Cantaloupe Varieties: 21 Different Types of Cantaloupe Cultivars
Are you going to start planting some Cantaloupe this season, but aren't sure which type to plant? You may not be aware, but there are actually many different types of cantaloupes to choose from. In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey examines 21 different types of cantaloupe cultivars that you may want to add to your garden, depending on your soil type, climate, and geographic location.
Honestly, the majority of Americans have never truly had a cantaloupe. Sure, they’ve bought one at the supermarket, but those bland generic fruits pale in comparison to homegrown melons. Once you try a vine-ripened specialty cantaloupe variety from your garden, you’ll never want to eat a grocery store melon again!
If you’re looking for the tastiest, sweetest, most scrumptious, and aromatic cantaloupe cultivars for your garden, you’ve come to the right place. After growing thousands of pounds of cantaloupes on commercial organic farms around the country, I’ve spent a lot of time sampling and experimenting with unique muskmelon varieties from France, Italy, Japan, and China.
These aromatic melons will absolutely blow you away with their flavor and texture. Cantaloupes are also easy to grow, making them a great choice for beginners. For better or for worse, you’ll probably never buy a supermarket melon again. Let’s dig in!
- 1 Are All Cantaloupes Muskmelons?
- 2 Why Grow Cantaloupe in Your Garden?
- 3 What is the Best Tasting Variety?
- 4 Choosing a Cantaloupe Variety
- 5 Top 21 Cultivars of Cantaloupe
- 5.1 Charentais
- 5.2 Savor
- 5.3 Diplomat
- 5.4 Arancino
- 5.5 Sugar Cube
- 5.6 True Love
- 5.7 First Kiss
- 5.8 Divergent
- 5.9 Sweet Granite
- 5.10 Sensation
- 5.11 Pride of Wisconsin
- 5.12 Halona
- 5.13 Oregon Delicious
- 5.14 Hearts of Gold
- 5.15 Sarah’s Choice
- 5.16 Golden Gopher
- 5.17 Sivan
- 5.18 Hannah’s Choice
- 5.19 Home Run
- 5.20 Hara Madhu
- 5.21 Ichiba Kouji
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7 Final Thoughts
Are All Cantaloupes Muskmelons?
Traditional cantaloupes are actually muskmelons. They are named for their sweet, slightly “musky” flavor and unique sugary fragrance. The word “musk” comes from the Persian word for perfume and the term “melon” is a French word with Latin origins that translate to “apple-shaped melon.”
All muskmelons are native to Persia, which is modern-day Iran, but they have spread throughout the world via trade, settlement, and breeding.
Today, muskmelons include hundreds of varieties of melons with diverse flavors, colors, and uses. All cantaloupes are technically muskmelons, but not all muskmelons are cantaloupes. When we hear “cantaloupe”, most of us think of the classic netted rind and bright orange flesh of a grocery store cantaloupe.
This is the North American cantaloupe or Cucumis melo ‘Reticulatus’. The variety name “reticulatus” is a nod to the net-like skin which is sometimes called a reticulated rhyme.
All fancy jargon aside, our cantaloupe and muskmelon taste buds are quite limited here in the states. The European cantaloupe, Cucumis melo ‘Cantalupensis’ has light green ribbed skin that looks nothing like the American cantaloupe.
There are also Asian, Japanese, French, and Galia cantaloupes, each bred into unique hybrids and cultivars of the above species. We’ll explore the unique tastes, benefits, and cultivation of each seed variety below, but suffice to say- they are all muskmelons!
Other Names for Cantaloupes
Muskmelons and cantaloupes can be disguised under many names depending on what area of the world you are in. In Australia and New Zealand, they are typically called “rockmelons.” In South Africa, cantaloupes go by the name of “spanspek.” In France, the small ‘Charentais’ cantaloupe is highly regarded.
The most common Japanese cantaloupe is ‘Yubari King.’ In Southeast Asia, you may hear cantaloupe melons referred to as “sarda,” which actually references a Galia melon. Galias are technically a honeydew and cantaloupe cross that originated in Israel, but we included them here for good measure.
Honeydew melons, casaba melons, and canary melons are all muskmelons, but they are not cantaloupes.
Why Grow Cantaloupe in Your Garden?
Before you dig into all the available varieties of cantaloupes, you may be wondering why you should grow it in the first place. After all, melons and their squash cousins tend to take up a lot of space with their vines ramblin’ through the gardens. How can we justify such valuable soil real estate?
Easy to Grow
For one, cantaloupes are easy summer annuals that take care of themselves pretty well after establishment. Cantaloupes love warm weather and well-drained, fertile soil. Give them some all-purpose organic fertilizer or a monthly dose of liquid fish and they’ll go vining wild all summer long.
Melons thrive in full sunlight and compete quite well with weeds once the big broad leaves are able to establish on the vines. From seed, cantaloupes take an average of 70-80 days to produce ripe mature fruits. Each plant can yield 2-8 fruits, depending on variety and size. They are fairly thirsty during fruiting time, but easy to irrigate with soaker hoses or drip lines.
Expensive to Buy
Melons are also an amazing crop for the garden because they can be so expensive to buy in stores. While a standard conventional cantaloupe is only $1.50-$2 in many large chain supermarkets, a high-quality extra-sweet organic cantaloupe at the farmer’s market could run you $5-$6 or more. By growing your own specialty melon varieties, you’re getting more flavor, more sweetness, and more melons for way less money.
Vine-Ripened Beats Store-Ripened
Store-bought melons are picked green and unripe. Then, they are shipped hundreds or thousands of miles across the country or world to arrive in grocery stores. Like bananas and tomatoes, cantaloupes are treated with ethylene or another ripening agent to get them to ripen and sweeten up while waiting on the shelves.
There’s no denying that this will affect the texture and flavor drastically! Although unripe fruit has a longer shelf life and transportation capacity, vine-ripened melons are just like vine-ripened tomatoes; a superior culinary experience in every way! When you grow your own cantaloupes, you can enjoy them ripe and sweet straight from the vine. The plants tell you when the fruit is ready, so no more guessing if a grocery store melon is ripe or not- only to cut it open and be disappointed.
Unique Specialty Flavors
Speaking of buying melons in stores, you really can’t find French ‘Charentais’ or southeast Asian ‘Galia’ cantaloupes in any regular stores. The specialty varieties we outline below are not typically cultivated on an industrial scale and I have personally only tried them from local organic farms at the farmer’s market.
The best thing about growing these melons on your own is that you can use your garden to essentially travel across the world and experience new flavors and cuisines. Your friends, family, and neighbors will delight at the unique aroma and sweetness of specialty cantaloupes. Usually, they’re asking where they can buy their own or how to get ahold of some seeds!
Of course, we can’t talk about garden-grown fruits and veggies without admiring their incredible nutritional profiles! Cantaloupes in particular are nutrient-dense with very few calories. In spite of their sugary taste, they provide a very healthy low-glycemic sweetness that won’t spike your blood sugar.
They are loaded with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and phytonutrients. Cantaloupes are also a great source of potassium, Vitamin K, magnesium, B vitamins, and fiber. Even the seeds (which are edible) offer loads of omega 3 fatty acids and gut-friendly fiber!
The antioxidant flavonoids in cantaloupes have even been linked to reducing your risk of cancer. Interestingly, the compounds that make this a cancer-fighting fruit are the same pheromones that the plant uses to protect itself from external damage.
What is the Best Tasting Variety?
The best cantaloupe cultivar is a very subjective and even heated topic amongst farmers and gardeners. There are just so many unique seeds to choose from!
In my opinion, the best cantaloupe of all time is the French heirloom ‘Charentais’, which is perfectly floral, intoxicatingly aromatic, honeysuckle-sweet, creamy custard smooth, and oh-so fragrant. The flesh is sweet enough to eat for dessert yet firm enough that it can be served on a platter with prosciutto and goat cheese (the classic French way).
There’s just something about these fancy melons that make me want to have my *pinky up* as I taste them. ‘Charentais’ is, after all, considered one of the best melons in the world, so it deserves an extravagant presentation. I have to thank the delightful French chef-turned-farmer, Leila Schneider of Hayshaker Farm in Walla Walla, Washington, for introducing me to this dreamy melon cultivar.
But don’t take my word for it- I haven’t tried every muskmelon out there! The perfect cultivar for your garden will need to check quite a few boxes. Plus, each variety can turn out a little different depending on the conditions. Consider it the unique terroir of your garden.
Choosing a Cantaloupe Variety
To find the best cantaloupe variety for your garden, start by answering a few key questions:
- What growing zone do you live in? Is the season long and hot or short and cool?
- How much space do you have in your garden?
- Do you need a compact variety?
- Is your garden located in full sun or is it slightly shaded?
- Do you prefer sweet, floral, juicy, or all of the above?
- How many melons can your family eat per week in peak summer?
- Do you prefer a consistent supply of cantaloupe throughout the summer?
- In the past, have you had problems with powdery mildew or diseases in your cucurbit family crops (squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, etc.)?
Top 21 Cultivars of Cantaloupe
The French heirloom cantaloupe of your dreams (or at least of mine). As I described above, this melon is so incredible that you can write poems about it. Plants yield gorgeous 2-3 lb melons with pale silvery-green skins and bright orange flesh that is dense and flavorful. The taste and smell are dreamy, floral, and aromatic. The vines are very vigorous and take 85 days to mature. The melons are small enough to be trellised if you’re short on space.
Our Vote: Best Flavor
This is another traditional Charentais-type, but it was hybridized for higher disease resistance than the heirloom cultivar. ‘Savor’ is resistant to fusarium wilt and powdery mildew, making it ideal for humid or extra-moist growing regions. The fruits are faintly ribbed with smooth gray-green rinds.
The flesh is more deep orange than ‘Charentais’, but equally flavorful. You harvest it when the rind gets a yellowish tinge and the tendril (the melon’s “stem”) begins to yellow and detach from the plant. This makes it easy to know when your melons are ripe, which is about 78 days to maturity.
Our Vote: Best Disease Resistant Charentais
A delicious muskmelon, ‘Diplomat’ is technically of the Galia melon subset, which is a cross between a honeydew and cantaloupe (still a muskmelon!) This variety turns yellow and netted when ripe and has a “full slip” (meaning it nearly detaches from the vine to let you know it is ready to pick).
The fruits weigh 5-6 lbs on average and have a small seed cavity surrounded by neon green, aromatic, thick flesh. So tasty and vigorous, this is the perfect Galia experience. Matures in 71 days and has exceptional powdery mildew resistance.
Our Vote: Best Galia Type
Now for an Italian cantaloupe- this variety is highly fragrant and incredibly delicious. It originated in Sicily and is traditionally served in chunks wrapped with prosciutto or thinly sliced Italian ham. But you can also eat it as is while savoring the bright orange firm flesh. The plants produce an abundance of 2-4 lb grey-netted melons that tell you when they’re ripe. Open-pollinated and 80 days to maturity.
Our Vote: Best Italian Cantaloupe
If you prefer an incredibly sweet, personal-sized melon, ‘Sugar Cube’ is calling your name. This variety is widely adapted to both northern and southern regions. The vines have strong disease resistance and a long harvest window for continuous production throughout the summer.
The fruits are just a bit bigger than a softball and have aromatic, deep-orange flesh that is perfect for single servings (but I honestly could eat 2-4 in one sitting)… It’s better than any candy or pie you’ve ever tasted. Scoop out the seeds and put a scoop of ice cream in the center for a decadent summer treat that kids go wild for (they don’t realize how healthy it is!)
They take 80 days to mature and are resistant to powdery mildew, fusarium wilt, and several common melon viruses.
Our Vote: Best Personal-Size Cantaloupe
This high-sugar melon was bred at the University of New Hampshire for exceptional performance in the northeast, or anywhere with a cold short season. The melon is a “full slip,” making it easy to identify the ripeness. Vines produce later and larger than ‘First Kiss,’ so it’s best to use this one as a succession planting for continual melons all summer long.
It takes 76 days to mature and has high resistance to both fusarium wilt and powdery mildew. It was one of the last melons standing in the rainiest New Hampshire summer in decades (the rest of the cucurbits pretty much rotted to the ground).
Our Vote: Best for Rainy Climates
At only 71 days to mature, ‘First Kiss’ is a truly short-season cantaloupe. This is one of the earliest melon varieties that never slacks on sweetness or flavor. The rind is orange-tinted and netted. Also developed at the University of New Hampshire, ‘First Kiss’ is best planted at the same time as ‘True Love’ for an extended melon season. The fruits weigh 1-2 pounds and have great disease resistance.
Our Vote: Best Early Maturing Cantaloupe
This premium quality organic cantaloupe is the most like American-style cantaloupes, but way tastier. The 3-4 lb heavily netted fruits turn mostly yellow-greenish at ripeness and have a nice pastel orange flesh. ‘Divergent’ is resistant to powdery mildew and fusarium wilt. It takes 75 days to mature and is an exceptionally vigorous vine with high yields.
Our Vote: Best Large Cantaloupes
One of the earliest ripening cantaloupe varieties, this Eastern type offers resilient growth and delicious torpedo-shaped fruits to growers in northern or mountainous regions. The cantaloupes are oblong, orange-fleshed, lightly netted, and about 3 pounds. They have an average flavor that is plenty sweet. Only 70 days to mature and open-pollinated.
Our Vote: Best for Mountain Regions
Another French variety, ‘Sensation’ is a lovely sweet and complex-flavored melon with hints of hazelnut, amaretto, and cinnamon. The flesh is uniquely white and the ripe rinds are orangish-yellow with a “full slip” from the vine for easy harvest. In the kitchen, they will entice you with a delicious fragrance that fills the room. In the garden, these F1 hybrids grow vigorously and yield plenty of 2-4 lb fruits in about 85 days from seeding.
Our Vote: Best White Flesh Cantaloupe
Pride of Wisconsin
At last, a full-size, open-pollinated muskmelon. This large salmon-fleshed cantaloupe is oval-shaped with deep netting. It is not musky, but rather smooth-textured and juicy with a delicate sweetness that doesn’t overwhelm you. Originally called ‘Pride of Colorado’, this variety was almost lost from cultivation, but revitalized in the 40s and 50s thanks to dedicated seed savers. Consider saving some seeds yourself to continue the line!
Takes 88 days to mature and does fine in northern colder regions as long as it grows only in peak summer. Fruits weigh 5-7 lbs and are fragile to cracking during movement or shipping, which means this is one of those unique varieties you can only enjoy straight from the garden.
Our Vote: Best Juicy Muskmelon
‘Halona’ is another early Eastern type cantaloupe that averages 4-5 lbs. You can easily identify ripe melons with this “full slip” variety that gently tugs from the vine. It has intermediate resistance to fusarium wilt and powdery mildew, as well as extra early maturity in just 73 days.
Our Vote: Best for Short Growing Seasons
This heritage Pacific Northwest melon has an extra juicy sweet flavor that melts in your mouth. The fruits are slightly oval-shaped and netted as well as ribbed. If sown in early June, it will yield by mid-September in Oregon. This rare variety takes 80-90 days to mature and is open-pollinated for true-to-type seed saving.
Our Vote: Best for the Pacific Northwest
Hearts of Gold
These vigorous vines will reliably produce at least 2-4 melons per vine. This used to be one of the most popular cantaloupe melons in the Midwest thanks to its thin rind and thick fragrant flesh with plenty of juicy sweetness. This variety has been around since the late 1800s and embodies the old-time summer tradition of eating cantaloupe straight from the garden. Takes 85 days to mature and has orange flesh.
Our Vote: Best for the Midwest
This cantaloupe consistently comes out on top in on-farm trials because of its excellent flavor. The attractive oval fruits average 4 lbs and have greenish-cream skin with light netting. ‘Sarah’s Choice’ was bred at the University of New Hampshire and performs well in northern climates. It is another “full slip” melon for an easy gauge of ripeness. Takes 76 days to mature and includes moderate resistance to both fusarium wilt and powdery mildew.
Our Vote: Best Flavor
If you’re looking for a biodynamically grown melon seed selection, this is it! The ‘Golden Gopher’ yields 6” wide heavily ribbed fruits that weigh around 2.5 lb. The pale yellowish-green skin surprises you with deep orange flesh inside. The high sugar content comes from honeydew genetics crossed into muskmelon limes.
It was developed by the University of Minnesota back in the 1930s and has been saved from extinction by dedicated seed savers. Unfortunately, this variety is quite susceptible to powdery mildew and is best grown in a region with dryer summers. The fruits sometimes split open when ripe, but that’s a small price to pay for the outrageously delicious flavor. 85 days to mature.
Our Vote: Best Biodynamic Variety
These reliable small melons are round, sugary, and deep orange colored. They are heavily netted and have a fine-grained sweet texture inside. Best harvested at “half slip” (cut from the vine when the stem begins to separate from the plant) and then ripen at 70°F for three days.
‘Sivan’ has among the best powdery-mildew resistance. It is technically a Charentais-type, averaging 1.5-2 lbs in weight and producing a delightful floral fragrance once ripened.
Our Vote: Best for Powdery Mildew Resistance
With strong disease resistance and sweet aromatic flavor, this cantaloupe is an easy pick for any garden. The fruits are beautiful, slightly oblong, and average 3-5 lbs in weight. Plants are healthy and productive. Bred at Cornell University, this is a full-slip variety that is well-suited to the northeast and resistant to powdery mildew and cucurbit viruses. 75 days to mature and notably beautiful exterior with golden-yellow ribs.
Our Vote: Best Disease Resistance
This F1 hybrid from Fedco Seeds was named for the most memorable home run in baseball history: Hammerin’ Hank Aaron passed Babe Ruth’s all-time record in April of 1974 and sometime after a melon breeder in the northeast crossed two lines to yield this delicious high sugar melon. It has a dense musky orange flesh and coarsely netted oval shape. Fruits average 4-6 lbs and are “full slip” when ripe. ‘Home Run’ yields in 82 days and is mostly unfazed by cold wet summers. Resistant to powdery mildew and fusarium wilt.
Our Vote: Best for Rainy Climates
This gorgeous melon from Punjab, India is teardrop-shaped and dripping with sweetness. The sky-high sugar brix level balances with an exquisitely unique flavor. This variety was introduced in 1967 by the Punjab Agricultural University after improving old landrace varieties from the Indian state of Haryana. This true heirloom is a testament to a medley of flavors and cultures indigenous to this region.
‘Hara Madhu’ takes 90 days to mature and yields 10-12 foot long vines of 2-3 lb fruits. Each melon has striped cream and green-colored rinds with a white flesh that doesn’t store well, so they’re best eaten straight out of the garden.
Our Vote: Best Indian Variety
As one of the most unique cantaloupes on this list, ‘Ichiba Kouji’ is a special Japanese melon that is highly popular at any farmer’s market in Japan. The fruit has netted green skin and a round shape, averaging over 3 lbs in size. The flesh is juicy, thick, and green, making a unique addition to any melon salad or platter. This variety is easy to grow and adapted to most regions. Only 55-60 days to mature and excellent mildew resistance.
Our Vote: Best Japanese Variety
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell when my cantaloupe is ripe?
Unfortunately, every variety is different. Cantaloupe ripeness is usually determined by a “full slip” or “half slip”. This means that the “stem” of the fruit will begin cracking and separating from the vine to tell you it is ready to harvest. A “full slip” will completely separate from the vine with just a gentle tug.
A “half slip” usually requires a knife to cut it from the vine. The circular area where a melon connects to the vine will typically begin to wither and yellow as the main sign of its ripeness. You can also check cantaloupe ripeness based on the color of the skin; some varieties turn yellowish-orange at ripeness. Often the best indicator of cantaloupe ripeness is smell. The fragrance of a ripe cantaloupe should be floral, sweet, and aromatic. The smell is especially strong near the base of the fruit’s stem. If you accidentally harvest a cantaloupe slightly underripe, you can leave it on the counter near bananas or other fruit to fully ripen.
What is the best month to plant cantaloupe?
Cantaloupes are best planted 2-3 weeks after the last frost in your region when soil temperatures have thoroughly warmed to over 70°F and outdoor night temperatures are reliably over 50°F. This can be May-July in most U.S. growing regions.
How long does it take for cantaloupe to grow?
Cantaloupes typically take 65-80 days to mature from seed, depending on the variety. Once cantaloupe plants begin to flower, it usually takes another 35-45 days to grow fruit.
Where do cantaloupes grow best?
Cantaloupes are warm-weather annuals that really love the long warm summers of southern climates. However, cantaloupes can be grown in climates as cold as USDA zones 4 with a few extra steps to plant early and protect the tender vines from cold nights below 50°F.
What is the sweetest cantaloupe variety?
The sweetest cantaloupe varieties are ‘Charentais’ and ‘Sugar Cube’. The scrumptious sweetness and smooth dense texture of these French-style melons will rival any dessert.
What is the largest variety of cantaloupe?
Colossal Cantaloupe’ is one of the largest cantaloupe varieties ever bred, yielding melons that weigh 25-30 lbs. But keep in mind that bigger is not always better in the world of melons. Often it’s the smaller, denser melons that have the most flavor and sweetness.
Do cantaloupe plants need a trellis?
Most cantaloupe plants can vine along the ground, however, small-fruited melons can be trellised to save space in the garden. Use a reinforced cattle panel or durable wooden trellis for this use and be sure to support the developing fruit so they don’t break from the vine.
Who knew there were so many cultivars of cantaloupe? Just like any ecosystem, diversity in the garden creates resilience to pests, unpredictable weather, and certainly bored taste buds.
You can grow several varieties of melons in your garden in the same season because most cultivars are self-pollinating. However, if you want to save seeds that are true-to-type, melons are best separated or planted a couple of weeks apart to prevent cross-pollination.