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Melon PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 29 May 2009 06:04

The melon, or muskmelon, Cucumis melo, of the Cucurbitaceae (cucumber) family

Muskmelon (Cucumis melo) is a species of melon that has been developed into many cultivated varieties. These include smooth skinned varietes, such as honeydew, and different netted cultivars known as cantaloupes (some of which, confusingly, may be particularly identified as "muskmelon"). The variety of cultivars from one species is similar to the wild cabbage, though less differentiated in the case of the muskmelon. It is an accessory fruit of a type that botanists call a false berry. It was first cultivated more than 4000 years ago (circa 2000 BC) in Persia and Africa. The varied cultivars produced have been divided into multiple cultivar groups.

Cantaloupe melons are a good source of potassium, Vitamin A and folate. The potassium is helpful in preventing kidney stones and cantaloupes in general are a useful laxative. North American cantaloupes are the most beta-carotene-rich of all melons and are also high in Vitamin C.

The botanical classification of melons differs in some respects from popular nomenclature. The large group of netted melons, Cucumis melo reticulatus, are commonly called cantaloupes in the United States. (A larger cantaloupe type is often marketed as a "muskmelon.") The true cantaloupe, however, Cucumis melo cantalupensis, is seldom grown in North America, although it is common in Europe. Unlike the American cantaloupe, its skin is not netted. The so-called winter melons, Cucumis melo inodorus, while officially members of the muskmelon group, lack the typical musky odor and are usually larger than cantaloupes. The winter melon group includes the smooth-skinned, green-fleshed honeydew; the dark green, orange-fleshed Persian; the yellow-skinned, green- or white-fleshed casaba; and the Crenshaw, which has a dark green, wrinkled rind and pink flesh. Most melon types are sensitive to cold and grow best in a hot, dry climate, although a few cultivars have been developed that can be grown in more northern regions.

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