Can You Freeze Cantaloupe?
Imagine savoring the summery sweetness of sun-ripened cantaloupe as a holiday treat. Not a cantaloupe that's been grown somewhere tropical and shipped to your local store, but a fresh, locally grown melon—rich, juicy, and exploding with sweetness. If you're wondering how, stop asking, "Can you freeze cantaloupe?" The fact is you can, and the process is easy and fast.
Like most melons, cantaloupes have a high water content: 95 percent. The flesh is denser than a watermelon, so it tends to emerge from the freezer with a chewier, more substantive texture than its pink-fleshed cousin. Other than a slight textural change, this frozen melon serves the same lovely flavor you'd expect from a fresh cantaloupe. Frozen cantaloupe tastes best when consumed while it's still a little frosty.
To freeze cantaloupe successfully, start with fresh, ripe melons. Look for cantaloupes with solid rinds where the netting stands out on the surface. The stem end of the melon should have a slight give, and you should be able to detect a slight cantaloupe fragrance. Avoid overripe melons, which have a strongly yellow-tone to the rind and may even have spots that are decaying or dark. Overripe melons often have a very strong cantaloupe fragrance.
When you cut the melon open, you want flesh that's firm, fully colored, and juicy. If your cantaloupe is mushy, you can still freeze it, but it will emerge from the freezer with a mushier texture. Look for locally grown watermelons at nearby farmers' markets. You can also grow you own if you have a long enough growing season. Just be sure you have enough room for vines to sprawl.
Plums are a natural for home gardens with their compact size and easy-growing nature. These trees tend to be beautiful specimens and bear heavy loads of fruit—not enough to overwhelm, but more than enough to balance fresh eating with sharing and putting by. ‘Opal’ plum trees are self-fertile. Fruit ripens early in the season, ripening over a two-week window, so you’re not overwhelmed with produce.
Give yourself a treat by planting a cherry tree. These trees add beauty with their spring blooms, and it’s tough to beat the tasty fruit. Just make sure you protect your crop from hungry birds with a little scare tape or netting. For small yards, look for Compact Stella, a self-fertile cherry that grows 10 to 12 feet tall and starts bearing within two years. If you’re into pie baking, plant sour cherries, which are self-fertile. Other cherries need a pollinating partner.
In warm regions (Zones 8-10), kumquats make an excellent addition to the family yard. Trees have a natural compact size and classic deep green citrus-type leaves. Fruits are small and egg shaped and decorate trees from late fall to early spring. Kumquats are fully edible—skins and flesh. Skins are sweet, while flesh is tart, making for an unusual flavor combination. It’s the ideal choice for marmalade. Trees adapt well to containers in areas with colder winters.
Grafted Trees with Multiple Cultivars
Plant everyone’s favorite apple by growing a tree with several cultivars grafted onto the trunk. You can find multi-graft trees for apples (shown), citrus, peaches, cherries and pears. With these trees, you can savor a variety of fruits in a smaller space. Multi-graft trees also extend the harvest window and provide cross-pollination partners. It’s the ideal answer for home fruit production. Follow pruning instructions carefully as different varieties may grow at different rates.
Few fruits compete with the sensory delight peaches offer, from fuzzy skin to juice-dribbling flesh. Peach trees are lovely in flower and add good color to landscapes. Most peach trees are self-fertile, so you can get away with planting just one tree. The most critical aspect of choosing a tree is cold hardiness—make sure you’re getting a tree that will survive your winters. In colder zones, avoid planting peach trees on southern exposures, or you risk early blooms that a late frost might zap. Check out columnar peaches, which take up little space and adapt to containers.
For gardeners in Zones 9 to 10, mandarin oranges can serve as a stunning landscape plant with their deep green leaves, fragrant blooms and bright orange fruit. In colder zones, choose dwarf mandarin trees for container culture. Mandarins are actually hardier than standard oranges and feature that easy-peeling fruit perfect for tossing into salads. Semi-dwarf trees usually withstand pruning to a certain size. ‘Satsumi’ is the most cold hardy variety. Other good choices are ‘Honey’ and ‘Encore.’ ‘Pixie’ is more of a shrub.
Pears combine beauty with delicious fruit that’s a gift to any size yard. Look for dwarf pears sold on rootstock Pyrodwarf, which produces trees 6 to 8 feet tall. ‘Beurre Bosc Dwarf’ is a genetic dwarf pear that grows 8 to 10 feet high. This photos shows cordon pears. Cordon refers to a type of stem training and pruning that results in a tightly upright growth form. The method works on pear or apple trees that produce fruit on spur-bearing shoots, which are short side shoots along stems. You’ll get the best harvest by planting more than one pear tree for cross pollination.
Fresh ripe apricots are nothing like their hard, store-bought cousins. A ripe apricot is actually too soft to ship, so the only way to enjoy that taste treat is to pick it fresh from the tree. Apricot trees are medium size, but you can find dwarf varieties. This fruit tree easily hold its own as an ornamental in the landscape. Some varieties are self-pollinating, but most need a partner nearby. In colder zones, look for varieties that flower later to avoid losing blossoms to late spring frosts.
Fragrant leaves, flowers and fruits make Kaffir lime a delight to grow, whether in the landscape or in a pot. Dwarf Kaffir Lime tops out at 6 to 10 feet and is versatile in the kitchen, prized for its leaves, fruit zest and juice. This is the must-have lime for preparing Thai, Lao and Cambodian cuisine. Mexican or key lime is another good choice for home gardens. Lime trees are very cold sensitive and must be protected from frost. Most limes are self-pollinating, although the flowers easily beckon bees with their sweet fragrance.
Whether you grow them in a pot or small backyard orchard, apples bring a familiar, cherished fruit to the landscape. Spring flowers transform trees into works of art. Choose dwarf or cordon-type (columnar) trees for landscapes and containers. Apple blssoms need to be cross-pollinated. Ask where you purchase your trees which varieties are compatible with yours.
Small, 1-inch fruits resemble tangerines and offer an unusual taste treat. The peels on calamondin are sweet, while the flesh has more of a tart zing. This is a citrus tree that’s commonly grown in containers. It’s one of the more cold-hardy citrus trees, tolerating temperatures to 20°F. The trees are highly ornamental with deep green leaves punctuated by white flowers or orange fruit.
When it comes to easy, figs are near the top of the list. Plants grow with few demands. Pruning may be top of the list, although if you grow naturally short types, like ‘Black Jack’ or ‘Improved Brown Turkey,’ pruning to control height isn’t needed. Some varieties send up suckers to form fig colonies that resemble an oversize shrub. You can also raise a fig tree in a container, which is one way to grow this tasty dessert fruit in colder zones. Figs are self-pollinating.
Don’t overlook lemons when planning an edible home landscape. Fresh lemons bring sparkle and color to the dinner table and play a key role in many dishes, including fish, vegetables, desserts and cocktails. Ripe ‘Improved Meyer’ lemon fruit lasts eight months or more on the tree. In colder zones, grow lemons in pots that you can haul outside for summer and place in a protected location come winter.
For a stunning fall display, you won’t go wrong adding persimmons to your landscape. Fall leaves offer a host of fiery hues, and fruits turn deep orange when ripe. Most unripe persimmons are astringent, but ripened fruits are referred to as “food of the gods.” Asian varieties tend to be shorter, while native American types are full-on trees. Look for dwarf varieties for smaller spaces. Persimmons aren’t self-fertile; you’ll need two trees for fruit production.
Botanically speaking, tangerines and mandarin oranges have the same Latin name. In California, ‘Dancy’ is a long-favorite variety, with loose skin and late-season ripening. For many orchard owners, ‘Dancy’ sets the standard for tangerine flavor. In the home garden, consider ‘Fremont’ tangerine, with fruit that’s wonderful fresh or juiced. Ripe fruit lasts up to 8 months on the tree. Another long-time California favorite is Ojai Pixie, which is usually sold as ‘Pixie’ mandarin.
Before freezing cantaloupes, wash the fruit with soap and water, especially if there's soil on the rind. Next, cut the fruit open. Remove the seeds, but don't worry about creating a smooth surface. You can leave some grooves in place. Slice the flesh from the rind. Be sure to remove that bright green, tart-tasting area between the orange flesh and rind.
Cube the melon, or freeze it in chunks. If you want melon balls, use whatever tool is handy: an ice cream scoop, cookie scoop, spoon, or melon baller. Place the cantaloupe pieces on a baking tray. Lining the tray with parchment, plastic wrap, or wax paper first makes removing the frozen pieces easier.
Place the tray into the freezer to quick freeze the cantaloupe. After pieces freeze solid, pack them into freezer bags or containers. To remove air from bags, try using a straw or vacuum sealer. You can also submerge the open bag in water, keeping the open end above the water. That quickly forces air bubbles out of the bag. Seal the bag while the contents are still underwater to avoid re-introducing air.
This is a good time to stop and consider how you might use the frozen cantaloupe. If you want to add it to lunch boxes for a noon-time treat, stash pieces in smaller zipper bags, and slip those into larger freezer bags. Frozen cantaloupe chunks are an ideal snack for folks fighting sore throats or colds.
Frozen cantaloupe provides a low-calorie, nutrient-rich snack or dessert. It's packed with Vitamins A and C, has nearly zero fat, and contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. It's a terrific addition to iced teas or mineral water and creates flavorful smoothies and sorbet. You can also blend it to create traditional or virgin daiquiris or margaritas.
Some people puree cantaloupe before freezing, freeze it in ice cube trays, and pack the cantaloupe cubes in freezer bags. Use the cubes to chill fruit teas or wine spritzers. You can also freeze cubed cantaloupe with watermelon and honeydew to make a tasty fruit compote. For best quality, eat frozen watermelon—chunks or puree—within nine to 12 months.