The Korean melon (Cucumis melo L. var. makuwa) or chamoe (참외), following its Korean name, is a type of melon primarily grown in Korea. The fruit is typically about half-foot (15 cm) long and weighs slightly over 1 pound (0.45 kg). It is smooth and oblong, with white stripes that run the length of the fruit. It has white flesh that is juicy and sweet, and the seed cavity is filled with small white seeds. Although most Korean melons marketed are yellow in color, there are variant cultivars of green or ivory colors. The flavor has been described as a cross between a honeydew melon and a cucumber. The fruits are usually eaten fresh; with its thin rind and small seeds, the melon can be eaten whole. The melon is eaten as pickled with spices as common side dish in Korea, called chamoe jangajji.
The word chamoe is a composite of words: cham meaning "true" or "real" and oe meaning "cucumber (melon)". Phylogenetic studies tracing the genetic lineage of the plant suggest that the Korean melon may have originated in East India. They were then thought to have been introduced to China from the west via the Silk Road.
The Korean melon is a cool sub-temperate crop, growing best with day temperatures between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius and night temperatures between 16 and 24 degrees Celsius. It requires good sunlight and rich, well-drained, friable, and moisture-retaining soil. It is drought tolerant, but requires sufficient water for optimal growth.
The plant, a cucurbit, is an annual herbaceous plant that branches and trails. The stem is angular and hirsute (hairy) and 7mm in diameter. The leaves are reniform (kidney-shaped) with 5-7 lobes. It is andromonoecious (both bisexual and male flowers on same plant) with yellow flowers.
There are two major landraces of Oriental melon, Sunghwan and Gotgam. The Gotgam Korean melon has the aroma of a dried persimmon, as reflected by its name. These two landraces contain more nutrients and have greater disease resistance than other varieties.
'Seonghwang' melon and 'Gangseo' melon are excellent native species, and there are many other native species such as peach and apple melon. Echinacea melon cultivated in Japan has strong sweetness and good meat quality and is now the most widely cultivated. Chunhyang, gold leaf, etc. are popular for early-stage cultivation, and varieties of melon such as u-melon and soup melon are introduced and distributed. The characteristics of main varieties are as follows.
- Prince melon: It is about 500g in weight, the skin is grayish white, the center of the flesh is reddish, and the surrounding is green.
- New melon: It is spherical, weighing 350-400g, and the skin and flesh are light green.
- Gold chart: Weight 250g, the skin is dark yellow, and the pulp is white.
- Golden: Similar to gold, but oversized.
The annual Yeoju Geumsa Oriental Melon Festival (여주 금사참외축제) is held once a year, and visitors can sample the melons there.
In Korean folk medicine, the fruit has been used for acute gastritis, fever, mental disorders, dysuria, jaundice, alcoholism, and hyperesthesia/paralysis. The apex has been used as an emetic and for hepatitis, constipation, syphilis, jaundice, and edema. The leaves have been used for blisters and alopecia, and the seeds for indigestion and cough.
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