Abstract Cantaloupe ( Cucumis melo L.) plants set groups of fruits which generate large variations in the reproductive:vegetative dry weight balance. We studied the influence of fruit number on the partitioning of dry matter and energy between the vegetative and reproductive organs and among the seeds and the various fruit tissues during the development of the first fruits. Over 2 years and on two Charentais cantaloupe cultivars, fruit number was either limited to one or left unrestricted, which led to the setting of two to six fruits. Because of the high lipid content in seeds, the distribution of assimilates was studied in terms of energy equivalent as well as dry weight. Measured dry weights were converted into energy equivalents by calculating the construction cost of tissues from their elemental composition. Seeds differed from other tissues in showing an increase in construction cost, from 1.1 to 1.8 g CH 2O g −1d. wt between 10 and 30 d after pollination. For this reason, during the second half of fruit development on plants with unrestricted fruit load, they made up to 31% of the fruit and 12% of the aerial part of the whole plant in terms of dry weight, but 39 and 18% in terms of energy (glucose equivalents). The fraction of assimilates allocated to the fruits showed a saturation-type response to the number of fruits per plant. It did not increase in cultivar Talma above two fruits per plant, which could be due to a decreasing sink strength with fruit rank, whereas cultivar Galoubet maintained a more homogeneous fruit size within plants. At a similar fruit load, the reproductive:vegetative dry weight balance differed between the 2 years of the experiment, probably because of variation in the fruit sink strength.