Melon

Melons, including honeydew and cantaloupe, are a popular fruit thanks to their sweet and refreshing taste.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Sweet melon, cantaloupe, honeydew
  • TCM nameCai Gua, Yue Gua
  • Ayurvedic nameKharbooja
  • Scientific nameCucumis melo
  • Plant typeVine
  • Native regionAfrica
  • Main producer(s)China
  • Main Economic UseAlimentary
Melon

Melon fruit grows on annual climbing vines and owes much of its popularity to a sweet and refreshing flavor. Melons are originally from Africa, and it seems they were already used for therapeutic purposes - mostly, against intestinal parasites - since before recorded history.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionDigestive, Diuretic
  • Key constituentsFlavonoids, fatty acids
  • Ways to useFood
  • Medicinal rating(4) Very useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe

Health Benefits of Melon

The anti-inflammatory and mildly diuretic activity in melons can be used in the following ways:

  • Stimulating urine production. The diuretic properties of melon facilitate the elimination of sodium through the urine, thus helping reduce blood pressure.
  • Enhancing the digestive process. Melons provide many essential nutrients and are low in fat, thus helping digestion and weight loss, as a part of a healthy diet.

Additionally, melon possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, and it has been traditionally used for relieving skin irritations, such as superficial abrasions and burns.

How It Works

Not much is known about the specific compounds responsible for the medicinal properties of melon, although different types of flavonoids have been identified and are believed to play a role in their antioxidant properties.

Studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory properties of melon are mainly related to its capacity to induce the production of interleukin 10 (IL-10), an anti-inflammatory cytokine that affects immunoregulation and inflammation processes in the human body.

On the other hand, melons have earned modern acclaim as a low-calorie health food because they are naturally low in fat and sodium, have no cholesterol, and provide many essential nutrients such as potassium, in addition to being rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C. Melons also constitute a good source of protein and fiber. All these nutrients contribute to its diuretic and digestive properties.

Furthermore, although its exact mechanism of action is yet to be understood, it seems that linoleic acid, a major fatty acid contained in melon seeds, has an enzyme-like effect in the gastrointestinal tract, easing the digestive process and improving the absorption of nutrients.

Melon seems to have little to no potential for toxicity and no contraindications.

Papaya and pineapple also have digestive properties, while asparagus and celery are a a good alternative for diuretic benefits.

How to Consume Melon

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsFruit
  • Edible usesProtein, Sweetener
  • TasteSweet

Given the sweet, refreshing taste of melon, it's an easy addition to any diet. Melons are packed with vitamins and nutrients and are low in fat, making them the perfect sweet snack or dessert.

Natural Forms

Ripe melons are primarily eaten raw, but in various parts of Africa the melon seed's oil, rich in protein and fatty acids, is used in cooking. Melons are also popularly consumed as juice, and are also dried, candied, or made into jam.

The seeds of melon could also be used for edible purposes, and melon seed's meal could be work as a meat substitute, and also for animal and poultry feed or protein production.

Melons are well-known as a delicious, low-calorie health food.

Buying

Natural Forms

Due to its popularity, the melon fruit is widely available at most grocery stores, supermarkets and local farmers' markets. Since they are in season during summer, it is recommended to buy melons them between April and August, for the best ripeness and flavor.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsFruit
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • Soil pH6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic)
  • Growing habitatArid or desert regions
  • Potential diseasesFungi

As a fully domesticated crop, melons are of great economical importance and mostly cultivated at a large scale. However, they can also be found growing naturally in disturbed sites, abandoned fields, along rivers, and open woods. Being an attractive climber, with pretty yellow flowers that attract pollinators, many gardeners are increasingly interested in growing melon at home.

Growing Guidelines

  • Melon vines grow best in warm, dry climates.  

  • They prefer open areas with well-drained, sandy, and slightly acidic soils.

  • Melons require full sun exposure and plenty of water.

  • The seeds are typically cultivated in nurseries and then transplanted.

  • The plant is usually pruned after four or five pairs of true leaves have sprouted.

  • In humid environments, melon vines are prone to develop fungal diseases.

  • Harvest time is based on fruit maturity, which depends on the variety. Typically, melons are harvested a bit before they are fully ripe.

Detailed information about growing melons can be found in the herb garden section.

Additional Information

Plant Biology

The melon plant is a climbing vine that can reach up to 10 feet (3 m) in length, and have alternate, simple leaves, rounded, with hairy and long petioles. The melon vine produces yellow flowers, and its fruits come in different sizes and colors. They are typically rounded with a white or gray rind, and orange, pink, or green flesh. Melon seeds are smooth, flat, and elliptic.

  • Classification

    Melon (Cucumis melo) is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which encompasses about 100 genera and 990 species of annual or perennial vines, including cucumber (Cucumis sativus) and pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo).

    Cucumis in Latin means “cucumber”, which is the English common name of another species of the same genus and derives from the Greek for cucumber, kykyon. The species name, melo, is short for melopepo, which means “apple-shaped melon.”

  • Varieties and Subspecies

    Cucumis melo is divided into two subspecies, C. melo subsp. melo and C. melo subsp. agrestis. The three varieties of C. melo subsp. melo are the members of the species most commonly seen and consumed. They include C. melo subsp. melo var. cantalupo, which refers to the cantaloupe or muskmelon; C. melo subsp. melo var. inodorus, which is commonly called casaba melon or honeydew; and C. melo subsp. melo var. flexuosus, the Armenian cucumber.

    In addition, C. melo subsp. agrestis has six accepted varieties, being the most economically important C. melo subsp. agrestis var. chito, often referred to as the melon-apple; and the Asian C. melo subsp. agrestis var. conomon.

Historical Information

While melons have been used for therapeutic purposes since before recorded history, it is thought that they were domesticated in the Mediterranean region around 1500 BCE, and regarded as a luxury food through the following 3,000 years, as they adorned banquet halls and royal feasts from England to India.

Once melon was introduced to Spain during the 1500s and its availability increased, Western herbalists were able to study its medicinal properties. Melons supposedly arrived in the New World on Columbus' second voyage, where American Indians began growing them. By the following century, large-scale melon plantations had developed along the southeastern coast of what is now the United States.

Economic Data

Melons have been highly regarded since their discovery, and they remain a popular sweet snack and dessert today. Melons play a significant role in the food industry due to their worldwide popularity. China, Turkey, Iran, and the United States collectively produce more than half of the world's melons. In 2010, the world production of melons was around 31 million tons, with China leading production.

Bibliography

  • FAOSTAT, Melon
  • Germplasm Resources Information, Cucumis melo
  • Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of a Cucumis melo LC. extract rich in superoxide dismutase activity, 2004
  • Journal of Agricultural Sciences, Characteristics and composition of melon seed oil, 2005
  • HortTechnology, Melon (Cucumis melo L.) Fruit Nutritional Quality and Health Functionality, 1997
  • Annals of Botany, Cucurbits depicted in Byzantine mosaics from Israel, 350-600 CE, 2014
  • Ecocrop, Cucumis melo
  • University of Michigan Health, Climbers, Cucumis melo