Melons, which are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, are a type of plant or fruit. Related to cucumbers and squash, melons are a favorite food of many people around the world.
Melons have been grown and used for a very long time. Small melons were grown by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and were used in cooking. However, it is likely that the smaller melons grown and eaten during that period were not as sweet as the melons grown today. After the fall of the Roman Empire, melons disappeared from menus. The Arabs reintroduced melons to Europe, and they once again became a standard source of food during the 1300s in Italy. Melons did not become popular in North America until later in the 1800s.
Melons belong to two difference groups: Cucumis (or muskmelons) and Citrullus (or watermelons). Most people classify melons based on the appearance of their skin. Netted melons appear to have netting on top of their skin, while non-netted melons appear smooth. Netted melons are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, grow very large unless picked early, and produce large amount of ethylene gas. Non-netted melons contain fewer vitamins, grow quickly until they ripen, and are considered tastier by many people.
Each type of melon has its own appearance and characteristics. Watermelons are very large, can weigh up to 90 pounds, have a green rind and red, pink, white, or yellow flesh. This melon can be found in a variety of shapes, including round, oblong and oval. Cantaloupes and muskmelons both have orange flesh and a rough rind, and Crenshaw melons are oval-shaped with a golden-yellow rind. Honeydew melons have pale-green flesh and pale-green to yellow skin. They typically weigh between 3 and 6 pounds, and are round or oval in shape. Other types of melons include Galia, Ogen, Casaba, Canary, Persian, Prince and Santa Claus. Each melon has its own distinct shape, size, color, texture and flavor.
Melons are grown in virtually every corner of the world, and most varieties are available year-round. They are easy to grow, and require very little maintenance or care. Because of this, they have become staples of diets in many developing counties where other healthy food sources are scarce.
In addition to being good sources of vitamins, melons contain protein, fiber and potassium. Some melons are also high in water content, which makes them a useful and refreshing addition to diets in hotter climates. Melons are often served as desserts, snacks, breakfast foods, or appetizers, and can be added to salads to add interest and flavor.