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My cantaloupe tastes like nail polish remover. Anyone?

  • j

I cut open an organic cantaloupe last night, and while it wasn't as soft and ripe as I'd hoped, it was sweet and flavorful... but it tasted strongly like nail polish remover (acetone?). Has this happened to anyone before? I've had some bad hard cantaloupes in my lifetime, but never one that tasted like a chemical! Any thoughts? I had a friend taste it, too, to make sure it wasn't just me. Would this happen because it was stored with chemicals? Or is it because it wasn't quite ready?

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  1. I suspect it started to ferment.

    IIRC, the alcohol produced by fermentation and acetone are contain the same number of carbons/hydrogens and oxygen, just arranged differently.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Alan408

      Ethyl Acetate. Sometimes, bacteria act on the available sugar to produce acetic acid, and perhaps there was some microbial production of ethanol. I would very much doubt it was acetone proper, since ketone production would parallel protein breakdown, and there's no much protein in cantaloupe.

      1. re: ganeden

        ganeden, thanks for that explanation.

        how does ethyl acetate relate, if at all, to esthers and aldehydes (like what make grand marnier -- and other liqueurs -- so heady and aromatic)?

    2. So not only did you continue to eat it, you had a friend eat it. I thank you and your ancestors.

      I'm guessing that they were those brave souls that ate the first raw oyster or found the non poisonous mushrooms and ate them even though previous mushroom eating killed off other members of the tribe.

      However, those tastebuds are in there to warn us about most food we probably shouldn't eat. I would have tossed it.

      Usually that taste comes from an over-ripe melon, but your last sentence seems to indicate it might not be that ripe. It has always been a spoiled melon taste for me.

      1. It wasn't overripe - I don't have much tolerance for the musky, almost-rotting taste of overripe melon. I took a bite, my friend was standing there, I said "I think this tastes like nail polish remover!," she took a bite, and agreed. I did toss the cantaloupe, I was just curious as to whether anyone else had experienced this. Can a melon ferment without getting soft/overripe?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jeda

          By chance, did you store it in the fridge before opening it, and how old was it? Years ago a good, whole, ripe melon did something strange during refrigeration that doesn't happen with cut portions. It must have effected the taste badly because I've never done it again.

          We have a few local truck gardeners and country markets with good, inexpensive "mush melons" picked vine-ripe within hours. The best are incredibly juicy and sweet with an intense muskiness. Yes, I sometimes remark on an acetone shading when eating some of them. They are so fine.

        2. That's funny. Since I came to the States ~15 years ago I've sometimes tasted a faint acetone taste in canteloupe. It never tasted like acetone in asia. I just thought that's what canteloupe taste like here. Unripe or super-ripe, they seemed to randomly taste like acetone. Can unripe canteloupes ferment? I suppose if they start to rot before they ever ripen?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Alice Patis

            In the US, it's virtually impossible to find a ripe canteloupe. Most farmers plant varieties of canteloupes bred to tip off before they're ripe, so they're hard and hold up to shipping better.

            Maybe unripe canteloupes ferment differently than ripe ones.

          2. I had a different variety melon that went bad but looked perfect ... flesh was firm and all that. It didn't taste like nail polish, but gee, did it taste bad.

            1. Me too - most of the melons I've had recently have had a faint acetone taste, as well as being bland, hard, and flavorless. I thought I knew how to pick a ripe melon, but I've been really disappointed by the melons I've been buying this summer (organic ones from my co-op). I assumed that they're being picked too unripe, and never ripening once I get them. (I've let them sit until they get almost mushy and moldy, and they STILL taste flavorless and acetone-y. Boo hoo.)

              The only good one I've had this year was a honeydew melon that my husband - the melon-hater - brought home for me. It must have been a fluke.


              1. Cantaloupes (musk melons) do not ripen after being picked.

                1. I thought that you couldn't get true Cantaloupes in the U.S., but only muskmellons?


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TexasToast

                    I lived in Rome, near where cantaloupes got their name, and the ones they had there certainly seemed like the ones I knew growing up in the Central Valley (and that are no longer grown).

                    Whatever the correct name is, it's a very rare farmer who sells ripe ones.

                  2. Whatever the name is between musks and cantaloupe, I find that I tend to overripen my melons on the counter. At first it was because one of my trips got extended and the kids asked me to cut open the melon as soon as I got home. I thought it was slightly over-ripe but man did they love it. So I now keep it on the counter until it is within 36 hours of its life. This summer has been fantastic with this theory.

                    I think the slight acetone taste is you left it on the counter even longer than I did and it got even more overripe than mine.

                    1. So in conclusion based on everyone's thoughts, since these melons are never (or very rarely) picked or sold ripe, and if melons don't ripen after being picked, then any attempt at "ripening" them on the counter them simply led them to become softer and oranger (on the outside), but not any riper (sweeter/more fragrant). So they prob started to ferment without getting any riper/sweeter. I think I'll just give up on eating a good melon anymore.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Alice Patis

                        Melons DO ripen after picking. When I buy a melon at our farmers market, I tell the vendor when I plan to eat it, and he picks one for me. Works every time.

                      2. this happens to me ALL the time!!! i hate it and its always me that tastes it, noone else does. The one im eating now is really ripe and sweet but i can smell the acetone and its so weird!

                        1. hate when this happens and it seems to be the norm.
                          had a cantaloupe that I was cooking up as a cantaloupe beurre blanc over diver scallops and it had that slight acetone taste but cooked up nicely in a sauce that was heavenly..

                          1. Me husband cut one up the other day...i had a piece and couldn't eat any more b/c it tasted like chemicals. I thought he'd sliced it on the counter right after i'd wiped it down (i've told him to use the cutting board, but he doesn't listen)! Maybe my cantaloupe had the same issue as yours.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: iluvtennis

                              I cut up a lot of melons at work and I find about 1 out of 5 to have a chemical taste or smell so I have to taste every one to make sure that they are good.
                              So 4/5ths of the time Yum! 1/5 Bleeeeck! and they will come from the same case, from the same farm, go figure.

                            2. Has anyone noticed that pureed cantaloupe develops a really awful flavor if it sits overnight (in the fridge)? First time, I made a cantaloupe ice cream base and let it sit overnight in the fridge to chill -- next day it tasted horrible. Might have been similar to acetone. Very sharp and I immediately spit it out. Then, last week, I made a cantaloupe smoothie, didn't finish it, and left it in the fridge overnight. Again, the same horrid flavor. I believe these were both Chanterais melons (the last one grown by me and very ripe).

                              1. I've noticed this from time to time with various melons (I always thought of it as a slight ammonia smell), but was never sure what exactly caused it. And after reading this thread I still cant' be sure of the cause, but I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who's picked up on it.

                                1. You smelled correctly. Nail polish remover is acetone, or ethyl acetate.

                                  Nearly all fruit aromas are ethyl esters, of which ethyl acetate is one. That same substance -- ethyl acetate -- is one of the definitive aromas of cantaloupe. It's actually IN the cantaloupe.

                                  What follows is geeky, I admit (I am a food/wine chem geek), but it shows you smelled accurately, Jeda, and the many others above. Here are the aromas in cantaloupe:

                                  "Ethyl (methylthio) acetate [FIRST ONE RIGHT OFF THE BAT], (Z)-6-nonenyl acetate, (Z, Z)-3,6-nonadienyl acetate, benzyl propionate, benzyl alcohol, a sesquiterpene hydrocarbon, cinnamyl acetate and an isomer of 3,4- dimethoxyacetophenone."

                                  The smell of acetone or ethyl acetate increases with the cantaloupe's maturity:

                                  "Analysis of cantaloupe samples at six stages of maturity showed increases in total ethyl and acetate esters, acetaldehyde, *ethyl acetate*, and ethanol with maturation."
                                  The ethanol of course, is a sign of fermentation. The ethyl acetate is not.

                                  Info source:
                                  Identification of Additional Volatile Compounds from Cantaloupe
                                  R. J. Horvat, S. D. Senter 1987
                                  Journal of Food Science
                                  Volume 52 Issue 4, Pages 1097 - 1098

                                  Some cantaloupe varieties have more volatile aromas/esters than others. The varieties meant for a long-shelf life and that are hardier for shipping long distances have fewer aromatic compounds-- they simply don't smell as good.

                                  The cantaloupe varieties with a shorter shelf life, like those from good produce stores and farmers markets (I suspect your organic cantaloupe is one of these), have more aromatic esters, which means more flavor, but also a greater possibility of ethyl acetate (acetone):

                                  "Most of the esters such as ethyl 2-methylbutyrate, ethyl butyrate, ethyl hexanoate, hexyl acetate, and butyl acetate and sulfur compounds such as *ethyl 2-(methylthio)acetate*, 2-methylthioethanol, ethyl 3-(methylthio)propanoate, 3-(methylthio)propyl acetate, and 3-(methylthio)propanol were two- to thirty-fold lower in odor values in long-shelf-life cultivars than in the [cultivars meant for immediate consumption]."

                                  Info source:
                                  Investigation of Volatiles in Charentais Cantaloupe Melons. Characterization of Aroma Constituents in Some Cultivars
                                  Christophe Aubert and Nelly Bourger
                                  J. Agric. Food Chem., 52 (14), 4522 -4528, 2004. 10.1021/jf049777s S0021-8561(04)09777-8 Copyright © 2004 American Chemical Society

                                  As far as those instances when the cantaloupe was pureed, or used in a sauce, or refrigerated overnight after cutting, chances are the more volatile esters -- the fruity, pleasant smelling aromas -- simply vanished into the air, leaving the hardier esters -- among them, ethyl acetate -- behind. You'll find the same thing happens in wine that's stored after opening or aged beyond its prime. If the wine has volatile acidity or ethyl acetate to begin with, that is.

                                  Hope this has helped,

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    That's a good explanation.

                                    I know that I have a great melon when I put it in the trunk and the smell overpowers the inside of my car. The melons I crave are definitely aromatic. The melon I refrigerated long ago must have simply gone flat which is why I no longer do so.

                                    Could it be that physiology is at work here - myself and others are drawn to those compounds while others recoil? Can they sense the taste diffrently?

                                    1. re: DockPotato

                                      "Could it be that physiology is at work here - myself and others are drawn to those compounds while others recoil? Can they sense the taste diffrently?"

                                      absolutely not! it depends on if you pay more for the cantaloupe. ;-)

                                      1. re: DockPotato

                                        This is one of the best CH answers/posts ever. Thanks, Maria!

                                      2. re: maria lorraine

                                        Coming back 5 years after this original post to say thank you Maria. After having a few pesticide-free plums this summer with the nail polish remover taste, I knew it had to be an ester or ether of some kind but I didn't remember enough of my chemistry classes to be certain. Mystery solved!

                                        1. re: imthemole

                                          You're welcome. I thought of this thread/post yesterday, when I bit into a piece of melon and the aromatics were a little off.

                                      3. I had the same experience, Jeda, recently. My cantaoupe was ripe but tasted like gasoline. I had the cantaloupe tested by the CT state analysis office. They reported that small amounts of two pesticides and several fungicides were found, but all were below what is considered harmful. I can't believe that food that tastes like gasoline is harmless. Standards should be raised.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: activdot

                                          Read the posts just above yours. This is part of the makeup of all cantaloupes, even organic. It has nothing to do with pesticides.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            rwworange: You mean to say that organic cantanloupes, truly grown without pesticides and fungicides, have pesticides, etc. as part of their makeup. Come on! When I was a kid, we raised cantaloupes successfuly and the only pesticide that was needed at that time was rotenone, which I believe is made from a plant. The cantaloupes were always sweet, with never a chemical taste.

                                            1. re: activdot

                                              I believe you may have misread and misunderstood.

                                              RW orange did not say that that *pesticides* are part of organic cantaloupes. She referred to my post above, which says that the smell of gasoline, ethanol (alcohol) and nail polish remover (acetone) are normal in cantaloupes.

                                              Especially organic cantaloupes. The age of the cantaloupe plays a big role in these less than desirable smells. The cantaloupes grown to be shipped long distances are a hardier variety with fewer aromatics in total, including fewer of the off-aromas.

                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                  has everyone noticed how you can put a cantaloupe from the grocery store into the back trunk, and you start smelling it as soon as you've gotten buckled in and put the car in gear?!

                                                  i know of nothing else like it.

                                                  (not related to the aromatic aspect of cantaloupe, has anyone ever cut one open to find the seeds "migrating" to the outer edges, leaving little "trails" in the flesh? wild!!).

                                            1. From all the remarks here I ask; is it possible that many do not recognize the taste of a truly ripe mushmelon?

                                              I seldom buy from stores as they are hard as stated elsewhere, and they have a "soapy" unsweet taste. I find the same when eating out. Not an unpleasant taste or texture, but not one I'd pay for.

                                              1. Activdot replies to your blog a second time. I sent my gasoline tasting cantaloupe to The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station where the cantaloupe was analysed. The following pesticides and fungicides were found in the cantaloupe: thiamethoxam&metabolites;metalaxyl;thiabendazole;chlorothalonil&metabolites;carbendaz-in or thiophenate methyl. These are not natural in cantaloupes. They are sprayed on as the plants grow. Fortunately (?) perhaps the above chemicals were below harmful limits. Please don't take seriously the blogs that state that your cantaloupe tasted like nail polish because it was overripe or it's just natural to buy a cantaloupe that tastes like nail polish or gasoline, That's a lot of baloney. Maria may represent some cantaloupe grower. I just read in another site on Chowhound that several people were sickened by eating cantaloupes.

                                                10 Replies
                                                1. re: activdot

                                                  Sorry, activdot, I represent no grower, of cantaloupes or any other product.

                                                  I do take a stand for science though, especially on the molecular underpinnings of flavor.

                                                  I also recognize the expertise of flavor scientists who have done the research and the chromotography to isolate the gasoline/turpentine/acetone flavors than CAN occur
                                                  in cantaloupe.

                                                  >>Please don't take seriously the blogs that state that your cantaloupe tasted like nail polish because it was overripe>>

                                                  The scientific articles are no "blog." Did you not read them?

                                                  As you can read above in the scientific article links, it's not ME talking about the molecular underpinnings of the aromas and flavors in cantaloupes, but scientists who have the labs and equipment, and who employ scientific methods to make their determinations.

                                                  So, those pesticides and fungicides found in your cantaloupe?
                                                  Do you know what each of them smell like?

                                                  Are you SURE the smell came from the pesticides?
                                                  Until you're sure, it's best not to make a conclusion.

                                                  Why not do the research on the smell associated with each of these pesticides?

                                                  Then, you'll have more information about whether or not the smell came from
                                                  the pesticides or from the cantaloupe itself as part of its natural ripening process.

                                                  Otherwise, it's quite likely you had a ripe cantaloupe that had been grown with pesticides, and you're blaming pesticides on the smell rather than ripeness.

                                                  Activdot, I work in the wine business, and deal specifically with aromas and flavors
                                                  ALL THE TIME, and I can tell you that OFTEN grapes and other fruits will develop a gasoline/turpentine/acetone smell as they ripen and mature and sometimes ferment.

                                                  So, until you have solid information that the pesticides/fungicides CONCLUSIVELY
                                                  are the cause for the gasoline/turpentine/acetone smell in cantaloupe, I'm betting on the scientists and on what those of us who work in fruit and in fruit fermentation all the time smell and taste on a regular basis.

                                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                                    My cantaloupe did not SMELL of gasoline. It TASTED like gasoline or some other strong chemical.

                                                  2. re: activdot

                                                    >>>""" Maria may represent some cantaloupe grower. I just read in another site on Chowhound that several people were sickened by eating cantaloupes."""<<<<

                                                    1. re: activdot

                                                      activdot, are you a member of the connecticut government since you are able to send your samples to the CAES? http://www.ct.gov/caes/cwp/view.asp?a...
                                                      is there a written report we can FOIA or request pertaining to the finding of thiamethoxam&metabolites;metalaxyl;thiabendazole;chlorothalonil&metabolites;carbendaz-in or thiophenate methyl in your cantaloupe?

                                                      was the 'loupe from a grocery store, or part of some government field inspection? just curious....

                                                      also, i never saw the chowhound thread about cantaloupe eaters getting sick. would you mind linking it? thanks!

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        Are you one of those the govt. is the problem people? Anyway, I am not a member of the CT govt. I am a retired teacher who knew how to find the right govt. office to analyse my cantaloupe. The cantaloupe was inedible because it tasted like gasoline or something similar. What I wrote in my blog was an exact copy of the written report that was sent me by the CT office that did the analysis. Did you honestly think I could remember or properly spell the names of the pesticides and fungicides mentioned. I looked up those names and discovered that they were indeed pesticides and fungicides. The cantaloupe was bought in a supermarket and was from Guatamala. The info about 16 people being sickened by cantaloupes can be found under a search for cantaloupe on CHOWHOUND. Some people were hospitalized it reported.

                                                        1. re: activdot

                                                          activdot, i'm withering on the vine here! ;-).

                                                          how in the world can you logically deduce from my query what is or is not my view about "government"?

                                                          i'm still wondering whether the lab gave you any official written report, so we can all see and benefit from its findings. do you know if a report was made that would be available on inquiry, e.g., a file or report number/identifier?

                                                          i'd be curious about the test protocols, too. i'm wondering what part(s) of the cantaloupe they tested, and also whether there were simply trace amounts of some pesticides on the rind. also, what are the pesticide limits, if you happen to know? did they say whether the flavor could be attributed to those chemicals?

                                                          please don't take my post as attacking you. i genuinely want to know, and i think other hounds would, too.

                                                      2. re: activdot

                                                        activdot, I see that this is your first post on chowhound. You may not realize that we all take our food quite seriously (perhaps more seriously than our human relationships), and that we respond to posts like this with much gusto. Many professionals in the food/beverage industry post here and it's hugely helpful to us all.
                                                        While I agree that it would disturb you that CT AES found these chemicals in your cantaloupe, I wouldn't have jumped all over other 'hounds for suggesting they were not the cause of your gasoline-tasting melon. We all have different tastebuds and smell sensitivities, and who knows how the melon would have tasted to one of us. Maybe the cantaloupe just sat in Fairfield County traffic for too long before it reached your table. :)

                                                        1. re: bakinggirl

                                                          I have eaten cantaloupe since I was a young girl. I can not give you a count,of how many I have eaten since, but the cantaloupe about which I blogged definitely had a distinct and definitely offensive chemical taste. This is the only c. I've tasted or eaten that has had such an awful taste. Why do so many bloggers doubt that chemicals are used by farmers and could have been used in large enough amounts to have affected the taste of my unnatural tasting cantaloupe?

                                                          1. re: activdot

                                                            I've experienced that strong chemical-like flavor similar to the smell of acetone in muskmelon varieties sourced from supermarkets as well as organic farmers markets and from ones grown in my backyard as well - no chemicals were ever used on mine. I have a feeling that there is some "perfect storm" of sorts where the the combination of sugars, temperature, chemicals naturally occurring in the melons, and some sort of enzyme(s), fungi, or bacteria create this acetone-like aroma as a by-product of some sort of their symbiosis. Just my half-logical theory, but there is reason why the cantaloupes muskmelons, right?

                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                              This is not half-logical. This is exactly what happens.

                                                      3. I just ate an organic Fuji apple that had a nail polish remover taste as well. It was crisp (neither overripe or underripe). Interesting.

                                                        1. for me the "off Taste" has gotten to the point where the Cantaloupe begins to taste spicy... depending on different aspects, the spiciness can become so strong as to prompt me to spit it out.

                                                          1. In the past week, I have bought three different packs of fresh pomegranate seeds. Both organic and conventional. They all tasked and smelled like acetone.

                                                            I eat a lot of pomegranates and have never encountered this taste when I have bought the fruit whole. However, since pomegranates are not in season right now, its' quite understandable that the seeds I bought could be fermented.

                                                            I have also had several melons over the yard that tasted of acetone. Both organic and conventional, and from the store and farmer's market alike.

                                                            The BIG question for me now is not why this happens, but if it's safe to eat the fruit. If the acetone taste is very strong, then obviously you can't eat it. But if it's just a little bit, is it safe to do so? I mean, acetone in a bottle is very toxic...

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Doc911

                                                              I am new here and have found this discussion most interesting. We are constantly seeking culinary information and recently I was wondering if one could make candied melon. I could not find a recipe so started with the normal candying process. I have successfully candied citrus fruit in the past . However after a couple of days the melon started fermenting and I was reminded of when I had food poisoning from melon about 40 years ago, so I decided to throw it away just in case.
                                                              When I was poisoned , I had bought a piece of cut melon, which was sitting under the supermarket lights, against the advice at the time as there had been an outbreak of food poisoning attributed to melon.
                                                              What I concluded had happened is that the process of cutting the melon had dragged bacteria across the surface. Putting it in clingfilm under lights had created just the right conditions for the bacteria to grow. By the way it did taste "peardroppy" but since then I have eaten melon that tasted the same but I have never bought cut melon since.
                                                              Has anyone here attempted candying melon or would it be too risky?
                                                              Perhaps I should lacto-ferment it first with a bit of salt.

                                                              1. re: MargaretRichard

                                                                Margaret, welcome to Chowhound.

                                                                For questions like yours, competely unrelated to the thread topic, it's best if you begin a new thread. Please flag your own post, and ask the Moderators to move it into a new thread, and suggest a title for it.

                                                                Alternately, you can go to the Home Cooking board and post this new topic there.

                                                                You probably won't get much attention to your question here since it's buried at the bottom of the thread and off-topic.

                                                                Hope you find what you need.