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Canary melon and cantaloupe

A melon is any of various plants of the family Cucurbitaceae with sweet, edible, and fleshy fruit. The word "melon" can refer to either the plant or specifically to the fruit. Botanically, a melon is a kind of berry, specifically a "pepo". The word melon derives from Latin melopepo,[1][2] which is the latinization of the Greek μηλοπέπων (mēlopepōn), meaning "melon",[3] itself a compound of μῆλον (mēlon), "apple", treefruit (of any kind)"[4] and πέπων (pepōn), amongst others "a kind of gourd or melon".[5] Many different cultivars have been produced, particularly of cantaloupes.


Watermelon and melon in India

Melons were thought to have originated in Africa,[6] however, recent studies suggest a Southwest Asian origin, especially Iran and India,[7][8] from where they gradually began to appear in Europe toward the end of the Western Roman Empire. Melons are known to have been grown by the ancient Egyptians. However, recent discoveries of melon seeds dated between 1350 and 1120 BCE in Nuragic sacred wells have shown that melons were first brought to Europe by the Nuragic civilization of Sardinia during the Bronze Age.[9] Melons were among the earliest plants to be domesticated in the Old World and among the first crop species brought by westerners to the New World.[10] Early European settlers in the New World are recorded as growing honeydew and casaba melons as early as the 1600s.[11] A number of Native American tribes in New Mexico, including Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Navajo, Santo Domingo and San Felipe, maintain a tradition of growing their own characteristic melon cultivars, derived from melons originally introduced by the Spanish. Organizations like Native Seeds/SEARCH have made an effort to collect and preserve these and other heritage seeds.[12]

Melons by genus

Horned melon


  • Winter melon[note 1] (B. hispida) is the only member of the genus Benincasa. The mature winter melon is a cooking vegetable that is widely used in Asia, especially in India. The immature melons are used as a culinary fruit (e.g., to make a distinctive fruit drink).


  • Egusi (C. lanatus) is a wild melon, similar in appearance to the watermelon. The flesh is inedible, but the seeds are a valuable food source in Africa.[13] Other species that have the same culinary role, and that are also called egusi include Melothria sphaerocarpa (syn. Cucumeropsis mannii) and Lagenaria siceraria.[14]
  • Watermelon (C. lanatus) originated in Africa, where evidence indicates that it has been cultivated for over 4,000 years.[15] It is a popular summer fruit in all parts of the world.[16]


Painted green melons. Chennai, India, 2010
Slice of cantaloupe melon
Argos melon

Melons in genus Cucumis are culinary fruits, and include the majority of culinary melons. All but a handful of culinary melon varieties belong to the species Cucumis melo L.

  • Horned melon (C. metuliferus), a traditional food plant in Africa with distinctive spikes. Now grown in California, Chile, Australia and New Zealand as well.[17]
  • True melon (C. melo)
    • C. melo cantalupensis, with skin that is rough and warty, not netted.
      • The European cantaloupe, with lightly ribbed, pale green skin, was domesticated in the 18th century, in Cantalupo in Sabina, Italy, by the pope's gardener. It is also known as a 'rockmelon' in Australia and New Zealand. Varieties include the French Charentais and the Burpee Seeds hybrid Netted Gem, introduced in the 19th century.[18] The Yubari King is a highly prized Japanese cantaloupe cultivar.
      • The Persian melon resemble a large cantaloupe with a darker green rind and a finer netting.[19]
    • C. melo inodorus, casabas, honeydew, and Asian melons
      • Argos, a large, oblong, with orange wrinkled skin, orange flesh, strong aroma. A characteristic is its pointed ends. Growing in some areas of Greece, from which it gets its name.
      • Banana melon, an heirloom variety with salmon-colored flesh and an elongated banana shape and yellow rind
      • Canary melon, a large, bright-yellow melon with a pale green to white inner flesh.
      • Casaba, bright yellow, with a smooth, furrowed skin. Less flavorful than other melons, but keeps longer.[20]
      • Crenshaw melon, a hybrid between a Casaba melon and a Persian melon that is described to have a very sweet flavor
      • Gaya melon, originally from Japan, a honeydew cultivar that is ivory in color and has a mild, sweet flavor
      • Hami melon, originally from Hami, Xinjiang, China. Flesh is sweet and crisp.[21]
      • Honeydew, with a sweet, juicy, green-colored flesh. Grown as bailan melon in Lanzhou, China. There is a second variety which has yellow skin, white flesh and tastes like a moist pear.
      • Honeymoon melon, a variety of honeydew with golden rind and bright green flesh and a sweet flavor
      • Kajari melon, a sweet honeydew cultivar that is red-orange in color with green stripes reminiscent of a beach ball
      • Kolkhoznitsa melon, with smooth, yellow skin and dense, white flesh.[22]
      • Japanese melons (including the Sprite melon).
      • Korean melon, a yellow melon with white lines running across the fruit and white inside. Can be crisp and slightly sweet or juicy when left to ripen longer.
      • Mirza melon, a large, cream-colored melon native to Central Asia with a sweet, savory flavor
      • Oriental pickling melon
      • Pixie melon, a sweet, palm-sized cantaloupe cultivar with a strange, cracked-looking netting
      • Piel de Sapo ('toad skin') or Santa Claus melon, a melon with a blotchy green skin and white sweet-tasting flesh.
      • Sugar melon, a smooth, white, round fruit.[23]
      • Tiger melon, an orange, yellow and black striped melon from Turkey with a soft pulp.[24]
    • C. melo reticulatus, true muskmelons, with netted (reticulated) skin.
      • North American cantaloupe, distinct from the European cantaloupe, with the net-like skin pattern common to other C. melo reticulatus varieties.[25]
      • Galia (or Ogen), small and very juicy with either faint green or rosy pink flesh.[19]
      • Sharlyn melons, with taste between honeydew and cantaloupes, netted skin, greenish-orange rind, and white flesh.[26][self-published source?]
    • C. melo agrestis, Wilder melon cultivars, with smooth skin, and tart or bland taste. Often confused with cucumbers (Dosakai, Lemon Cucumber, Pie Melons).[27]
    • C. melo conomon, Conomon Melons, Pickling Melons, with smooth skin, and ranging from tart or bland taste (pickling melon) to mild sweetness in Korean Melon.Oriental Pickling melon, Korean Melon. Closely related to wilder melons (C Melo Var Agrestis).[28]
    • Modern crossbred varieties, e.g. Crenshaw (Casaba × Persian), Crane (Japanese × N.A. cantaloupe).


Melon production, 2020
Country Production
(millions of tonnes)
 United States
Source: FAOSTAT of the United Nations[29]

In 2018, world production of melons was 27 million tonnes, led by China with 46% of the total (table). Turkey, Iran, and India each produced more than 1 million tonnes.[29]

See also


  1. ^ Not to be confused with Cucumis melo inodorus varieties, also collectively called winter melon.


  1. ^ Harper, Douglas. "melon". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ melopepo. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
  3. ^ μηλοπέπων. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  4. ^ μῆλον in Liddell and Scott.
  5. ^ πέπων in Liddell and Scott.
  6. ^ The new Oxford book of food plants. Oxford University Press. 2009. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-19-954946-7.
  7. ^ Raghami, Mahmoud; López-Sesé, Ana Isabel; Hasandokht, Mohamad Reza; Zamani, Zabihollah; Moghadam, Mahmoud Reza Fattahi; Kashi, Abdolkarim (2014-01-01). "Genetic diversity among melon accessions from Iran and their relationships with melon germplasm of diverse origins using microsatellite markers". Plant Systematics and Evolution. 300 (1): 139–151. Bibcode:2014PSyEv.300..139R. doi:10.1007/s00606-013-0866-y. ISSN 1615-6110. Melons or muskmelon are native to Iran and adjacent countries toward the west and east. In fact, 'Musk' is a Persian word for a kind of perfume and 'melon' is derived from Greek words (Robinson and Decker-Walters 1997). The origin of diversity for melon was traditionally believed to be in Africa (Robinson and Decker-Walters 1997), although recent molecular systematic studies, suggested that it may be originated from Asia and then reached to Africa (Renner et al. 2007). Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Transcaucasia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as Afghanistan and China (Robinson and Decker-Walters 1997) are considered primary diversity centre for melon (Tzitzikas et al. 2009).Two formal infraspecific taxa within C. melo were recognized by Kirkbri
  8. ^ "Growing Melons". 2012-04-03. Archived from the original on 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2019-05-25. Melons are believed to have originated in the hot valleys of southwest Asia—specifically Iran (Persia) and India.
  9. ^ D., Sabato; A., Masi; C., Pepe; M., Ucchesu; L., Peña-Chocarro; A., Usai; G., Giachi; C., Capretti; G., Bacchetta (16 May 2017). "Archaeobotanical analysis of a Bronze Age well from Sardinia: A wealth of knowledge". Plant Biosystems. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  10. ^ Dhillon, Narinder P.S.; Monforte, Antonio J.; Pitrat, Michel; Pandey, Sudhakar; Singh, Praveen Kumar; Reitsma, Kathleen R.; Garcia-Mas, Jordi; Sharma, Abhishek; McCreight, James D. (2012). Jules Janick (ed.). "Melon Landraces of India: Contributions and Importance". Plant Breeding Review. 35. John Wiley & Sons: 88. ISBN 978-1118100486. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
  11. ^ "Growing Melons". University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Archived from the original on 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  12. ^ Miller, Denise (September 24, 2008). "San Felipe Pueblo melon farmer favors the old ways". Albuquerque Journal. Archived from the original on November 2, 2013. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  13. ^ Danielle Nierenberg; Elena Davert (September 20, 2010). "Seeds, seeds, seeds: Egusi, the Miracle Melon". Nourishing the Planet. Archived from the original on October 6, 2010.
  14. ^ Enoch Gbenato Achigan-Dako; Rose Fagbemissi; Hermane Tonankpon Avohou; Raymond Sognon Vodouhe; Ousmane Coulibaly; Adam Ahanchede (2008). "Importance and practices of Egusi crops (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai, Cucumeropsis mannii Naudin and Lagenaria siceraria (Molina) Standl. cv. ' Aklamkpa ') in sociolinguistic areas in Benin" (PDF). Biotechnol. Agron. Soc. Environ. 12 (4): 393–40. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-05-07. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
  15. ^ Zohary, Daniel; Hopf, Maria; Weiss, Ehud (2012). Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Domesticated Plants in Southwest Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean Basin (Fourth ed.). Oxford: University Press. p. 193. ISBN 9780199549061.
  16. ^ "Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai". Grassland Species Profiles. FAO.
  17. ^ G.N. Njorogo; M.N. van Luijk (2004). "Momordica". In G.J.H. Grubben; O.H. Denton (eds.). Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: Vegetables. Wageningen, Netherlands: PROTA Foundation. p. 248. ISBN 90-5782-147-8. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
  18. ^ Anthony F. Chiffolo; Rayner W. Hesse (2006). Cooking with the Bible: biblical food, feasts, and lore. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 255. ISBN 0-313-33410-2. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
  19. ^ a b Heidemarie Vos (2010). Passion of a Foodie - An International Kitchen Companion. Strategic Book Publishing. p. 348. ISBN 978-1-934925-63-8. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
  20. ^ "What is a casaba melon?". WiseGeek. Archived from the original on 2014-07-22. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
  21. ^ "Xinjiang Hami Melon". China Daily. Library>China ABC>Geography>Local Products. Archived from the original on 2013-11-01. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
  22. ^ "Moscow flooded with melons". The Moscow Times. September 21, 2007. Archived from the original on 2015-05-10. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
  23. ^ Jac G. Constant (1986). The Complete Book of Fruit: an illustrated guide to over 400 species and varieties of fruit from all over the world. Admiral. p. 35. ISBN 1-85171-049-3.
  24. ^ Bastyra, Judy; Canning, Julia (1990). A Gourmet's Guide to Fruit. HP Books. p. 64. ISBN 0-89586-849-0.
  25. ^ Linda Ziedrich (2010). The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves: 200 Classic and Contemporary Recipes Showcasing the Fabulous Flavors of Fresh Fruits (Easyread Large ed.). ReadHowYouWant.com. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-4587-6483-6. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
  26. ^ James Ehler. "Melons". Food Reference. Archived from the original on 2014-08-05. Retrieved 2014-10-20.[self-published source]
  27. ^ Swamy, K. R. M. (2018-08-29). "Origin, distribution and systematics of culinary cucumber (Cucumis melo subsp. agrestis var. conomon)". Journal of Horticultural Science. 12 (1): 1–22. doi:10.24154/jhs.v12i1.64. ISSN 0973-354X.
  28. ^ Lim, T. K. (2012). "Cucumis melo (Conomon Group)". In Lim, T. K. (ed.). Edible Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Plants. Springer Netherlands. pp. 204–209. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-1764-0_32. ISBN 9789400717640. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  29. ^ a b "Production of melons in 2018; Crops/Regions/World list/Production Quantity (pick lists)". UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Corporate Statistical Database (FAOSTAT). 2019. Archived from the original on 11 May 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2020.

General references

  • Media related to Melons at Wikimedia Commons
  • "Cucumis melo L." Purdue University, Center for New Crops & Plant Products. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
  • "Sorting Cucumis names". Multilingual multiscript plant name database. Retrieved 2014-10-20.