Citron melon

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Citron melon
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Genus: Citrullus
Species: C. lanatus
Variety: citroides
Trinomial name
Citrullus lanatus var. citroides
(L. H. Bailey) Mansf.[1]

The citron melon (Citrullus lanatus var. citroides), Kalahari melon[2] or tsamma, is thought to be the original/ancestral variety of watermelon. It is in the family Cucurbitaceae which consists of various squashes, melons, and gourds. Its fruit has a hard white flesh, rendering it less likely to be eaten raw; more often it is "pickled" or used to make preserves. It is especially useful for the latter, because it has a high pectin content.


The citron melon is native to Africa, probably the Kalahari desert, where it still grows abundantly. The time and place of its first domestication is unknown, but it appears to have been grown in ancient Egypt at least four thousand years ago.

It is grown as food in Africa, especially dry or desert regions, including South Africa. In some areas, it is even used as a source of water during dry seasons.

Today, it's not only found in Africa, but also domesticated elsewhere. There it is generally somewhat divergent from its "pure" form, in part from accidental crossbreeding with modern, domesticated watermelon.[citation needed] It is known in the southern plains states and Australia as pie melon, as well as citron melon. These impure, domesticated versions are sometimes oblong in shape, have unusually colored seeds or meat, or are otherwise different from the original form.[citation needed]

It has become a feral species, growing wild, in western Mexico.


The actual fruit of this plant resembles the more modern, domesticated watermelons, except it's smaller and more spheroid. The meat of the melon is more whitish and dense, though, and much stronger in flavor, akin more to the area on a domesticated watermelon where the red meat is just turning into the white rind. As noted above, while some people do eat it raw, it's more often cooked or prepared in some other way.

Citron melon leaves are palmate in the early stages of growth, and deeply lobed in later development. They have a rough texture and a visible white venation.

Solitary flowers with large, yellow petals of around 2-10 millimeters are randomly dispersed forming many seeded fruit with a variegated light green and dark green pattern.[1]

The citron melon should not be confused with actual citron, a citrus fruit originally used, since ancient Egypt, to repel insects, but which in modern times is also sold candied, or cooked into fruitcake.


  1. ^ "USDA GRIN Taxonomy". Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Vermaak, I. "African seed oils of commercial importance - Cosmetic applications". South African Journal of Botany. Retrieved 3 December 2013.