Contrary to popular belief, most Americans have never tasted a cantaloupe. Additionally, true cantaloupes are grown only in Europe and are not exported. The fruit in the U.S. commonly referred to as the cantaloupe is actually a muskmelon. The American cantaloupe and the actual cantaloupe, native to Italy, are similar in taste and can be interchanged in recipes. You can tell if an American cantaloupe is ripe by examining either the skin or the flesh (the inside) of the cantaloupe.
Hold the cantaloupe in your hands. The outside of the melon should be beige with a gray netting. The cantaloupe should be chiefly firm with a soft spot at the blossom end (the end that was once attached to the root).
Identify any bruises to the skin of the cantaloupe. A bruise can mean the melon is overly ripe or spoiled. If it is excessively bruised or soft, throw it away.
Place the cantaloupe on a cutting board and cut it in half with a large, sharp knife. The fruit of the melon, also called the flesh, should be fragrant and pale orange.
Taste a small piece of the cantaloupe; the flavor should be light and sweet. If the flavor is bitter or overpowering, throw it away.
Slice the cantaloupe into wedges to eat it, or chop it into bite-sized pieces and add it to a summer fruit salad.