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Friday, September 9, 2011


Image result for cantaloupe

Here in Ontario, the peaches are still in season, but now the equally luscious and slurpworthy Ontario cantaloupes are ready to be eaten. Some of you may be surprised to learn that it is warm enough to grow melons in Canada, but I assure you it is! 

The name "cantaloupe" comes from the Italian Cantalupo, the name of a former country seat of the Pope near Rome, where the fruit is said  to have been first cultivated when introduced from Armenia. Apparently what we call a cantaloupe in North America should actually be called a muskmelon, since a true cantaloupe is a different variety of melon, but I doubt that decades of usage will change on this. 

The Diner's Dictionary has this to say about the term "muskmelon":
by Elizabethan times native melons were being grown, and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they became one of the most important products of the gentry's hothouses. They were usually known generically as musk melons (as distinct from water melons)—a not particularly appropriate term, probably adopted from an oriental variety of melon (in Dutch, the muscus-meloen) which really did have a scent reminiscent of musk.
According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, the spelling "cantaloupe" is more common than "cantaloup" in Canada.

Continuing with the tradition of "Recipes from the Word Lady" that I started with my scone posting , here's a recipe for Cantaloupe Cake that I just tried for the first time this weekend when confronted with a very ripe 2.5kg melon. It was very yummy!

Cantaloupe Cake
Beat together
3 eggs
1/2 c. oil
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
Mix together:
3 c (400 g) white or whole-wheat flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
Add dry ingredients alternately to egg mixture with
2 c. pureed ripe cantaloupe.
Pour into a large greased and floured tube pan or Bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 50 minutes. Let cool till lukewarm. Turn out and dust with icing sugar.
* Since cantaloupes vary in juiciness you may want to start with 2 1/2 cups flour and add more if the batter looks too runny.

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  1. Hello,

    I wish you had commented (again, perhaps) on the pronunciation of "recipe". I find it ... odd.

    Thank you!

  2. I always want to call that fruit a can'talopee like 'calliope'.

  3. The first name I learned for this fruit, in semi-rural southern Ontario in the 1950s, was muskmelon. My uncle Herb grew them on his farm. I was surprised, years later, to discover that others didn't know what I was talking about. Confused, I came to believe that "cantaloupe" was the correct name and that referring to a muskmelon showed my unfortunate lack of sophistication. Hah. I might've known: Uncle Herb also knew more about opera than anyone I've ever met.

  4. I agree with Joy. They were muskmelons to me, too, in Southern Ontario in the 1950s.

  5. Katherine, I don't have a Bundt or tube pan. Unless I can borrow one, do you think I could sub a 9"x9" coffee-cake pan with 3" sides? Or does this recipe rise too much for that?


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.