Melon facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Cantaloupe and canary melon
Cantaloupe and canary melons.
Watermelon and melon in India
Varieties of watermelon in India.

A melon is any kind of edible, fleshy fruit in the Cucurbitaceae family. Many different cultivars have been produced, especially of muskmelons. Botanically speaking, the melon is a fruit, but some kinds are often considered vegetables. Most melons belong to the genus Cucumis, but there are also some that belong to Benincasa, Citrullus and Momordica. The muskmelon belongs to Cucumis, while the watermelon belongs to Citrullus.

The word melon comes from the Latin melopepo, which itself comes from the Greek μηλοπέπων (mēlopepon).

History

Melons come from Africa and southwest Asia. They gradually began to appear in Europe toward the end of the Roman Empire. Melons were introduced to America by early settlers, who grew honeydew and casaba melons as early as the 1600s. A number of Native American groups in New Mexico have a tradition of growing their own kinds of melon cultivars, derived from melons originally introduced by the Spanish.

Nutrition

C0242-Kstovo-LeninSquare-melon-vendors
Watermelon vendors in Kstovo, Russia

Melons are a nutritious food. The seeds of cantaloupe were used in China to moderate fevers and the digestive system. Elsewhere, seeds were ground into a powder and used to treat tuberculosis. Cantaloupes are particularly beneficial to people with heart disease, as they have large of amounts of an anticoagulant known as adenosine. They also have high levels of potassium, which benefits those with high blood pressure. Due to their high water content, all melons are considered diuretics.

There is also evidence that suggests that eating melons can lower the risk of cancer. USDA researchers discovered that melons have lycopene, an antioxidant found in a select group of fruits and vegetables. Lycopene treats and prevents cancer by trapping free-radicals in cells.

Melons by genus

Cantaloupe Melon cross section
Honeydew

Benincasa

  • Winter melon (B. hispida) is the only member of the genus Benincasa. The mature winter melon is a cooking vegetable that is widely used in Asia specially in India. The immature melons are used as a culinary fruit (e.g., to make a distinctive fruit drink).

Citrullus

  • Egusi (C. lanatus) is a wild melon, similar in appearance to the watermelon. The flesh is inedible, but the seeds are a valuable food source in Africa. Other species that have the same culinary role, and that are also called egusi include Cucumeropsis mannii and Lagenaria siceraria.
  • Watermelon (C. lanatus) originated in Africa, where evidence indicates that it has been cultivated for over 4,000 years. It is a popular summer fruit in all parts of the world.

Cucumis

Melons in genus Cucumis are culinary fruits, and include the majority of culinary melons. All but a handful of culinary melon varieties belong to the species Cucumis melo L.

  • Horned melon (C. metuliferus), a traditional food plant in Africa with distinctive spikes. Now grown in California, Chile, Australia and New Zealand as well.
  • Muskmelon (C. melo)
    • C. melo cantalupensis, with skin that is rough and warty, not netted.
      Melonjf7319
      Slice of Cantaloupe melon
      • The European cantaloupe, with lightly ribbed, pale green skin, was domesticated in the 18th century, in Cantalupo in Sabina, Italy, by the pope's gardener. It is also known as a 'rockmelon' in Australia and New Zealand. Varieties include the French Charentais and the Burpee Seeds hybrid Netted Gem, introduced in the 19th century. The Yubari King is a highly prized Japanese cantaloupe cultivar.
      • The Persian melon resemble a large cantaloupe with a darker green rind and a finer netting.
    • C. melo inodorus, casabas, honeydew, and Asian melons
      • Argos, a large, oblong, with orange wrinkled skin, orange flesh, strong aroma. A characteristic is its pointed ends. Growing in some areas of Greece, from which it was named.
      • Canary melon, a large, bright-yellow melon with a pale green to white inner flesh.
      • Casaba, bright yellow, with a smooth, furrowed skin. Less flavorful than other melons, but keeps longer.
      • Hami melon, originally from Hami, Xinjiang, China. Flesh is sweet and crisp.
      • Le Melon
        Melon fruit
        Honeydew, with a sweet, juicy, green-colored flesh. Grown as bailan melon in Lanzhou, China. There is a second variety which has yellow skin, white flesh and tastes like a moist pear.
      • Kolkhoznitsa melon, with smooth, yellow skin and dense, white flesh.
      • Japanese melons (including the Sprite melon).
      • Korean melon, a yellow melon with white lines running across the fruit and white inside. Can be crisp and slightly sweet or juicy when left to ripen longer.
      • Oriental pickling melon
      • Piel de Sapo (toad skin) or Santa Claus melon, with a blotchy green skin and white sweet-tasting flesh.
      • Sugar melon a smooth, white, round fruit.
      • Tiger melon, an orange, yellow and black striped melon from Turkey with a soft pulp.
    • C. melo reticulatus, true muskmelons, with netted (reticulated) skin.
      • North American cantaloupe, distinct from the European cantaloupe, with the net-like skin pattern common to other C. melo reticulatus varieties.
      • Galia (or Ogen), small and very juicy with either faint green or rosy pink flesh.
      • Sharlyn melons, with taste between honeydew and cantaloupes, netted skin, greenish-orange rind, and white flesh.
    • Modern crossbred varieties, e.g. Crenshaw (Casaba × Persian), Crane (Japanese × N.A. cantaloupe).

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