Melons, like cantaloupe and honeydew, are refreshing fruits. They are a wonderful addition to breakfasts, desserts, aperitifs and salads. It is a flagship food of the summer which the French love.
Characteristics of the melon:
- Rich in water;
- Low in calories;
- Source of vitamin A and C;
- Rich in antioxidants;
- Source of fiber.
What is melon?
Food identity card
- Type: Fruit;
- Family: Cucurbitaceae;
- Origin: Africa;
- Season: June to September;
- Orange color ;
- Flavor: Sweet.
Characteristics of the melon
The melon is a vegetable plant. The fruit grows on the ground under large green leaves. Its thick green skin contains orange and juicy flesh.
Word from the nutritionist
In the refrigerator, the whole melon loses far less antioxidants and vitamin C than if it is stored in chopped pieces.
It is rich in water and low in calories. It is therefore a food of choice during periods of weight loss.
For 100g of melon:
|Vitamin C||28.8 mg|
|Vitamin A||336.67 µg|
|Vitamin B6||0.068 mg|
5 benefits of melon: why eat it?
- The consumption of foods containing carotenoids, such as melon, is linked to a lower risk of suffering from certain cancers. In addition, researchers have identified in a particular type of melon (oriental melon) odorous compounds (MTAE, AMTE, AMTP, benzyl acetate and eugenol). These compounds could help prevent cancer thanks to their antimutagenic, antioxidant and cell differentiation effects.
- Melons contain different antioxidants, mainly carotenoids and certain phenolic compounds. Carotenoids are pigments that give an orange-red color to food. Thus, orange pulp melons contain more carotenoids than lighter flesh melons. Beta-carotene, an important precursor of vitamin A in the body, accounts for 85% of the total carotenoids of cantaloupe. According to the Canadian Nutrient File, it’s 60 times more than honeydew. Melons also contain other carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin, but in rather negligible quantities.
- Cantaloupe is a good source of vitamin C and honeydew is a source of vitamin C. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties and may be partly responsible for the beneficial effects associated with high consumption of fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C in the blood helped reduce oxidation and inflammation in the body, a protective effect against the onset of certain degenerative diseases associated with aging.
- Cantaloupe is a good source of vitamin A.
- Melon is a source of vitamin B6. Also called pyridoxine, this vitamin is part of coenzymes which participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the manufacture of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also contributes to the production of red blood cells and allows them to transport more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells.
Choose the right melon
Choosing a melon is still a matter of luck. Although the fruits of the new varieties are more uniform, some are sweeter than others, and the appearance of the fruit is not always a good indicator.
According to experts, the main criterion is weight. The heavier a melon, in proportion to its size, the better it will be. It should be firm or slightly flexible depending on whether it is more or less ripe. The presence of a crack at the base of the peduncle (where the tail should be) is a sign of optimal maturity. It must exhale, around the peduncle, a pleasant fragrance without being too pronounced (if a smell of ether is released, it is too ripe).
The different varieties
Embroidered melon (Cucumis melo var. Reticulatis): It is the one that is generally found in North American markets where it is wrongly called cantaloupe. Its bark covered with sinuous lines recalls an embroidery in relief. She usually has no ribs. Its flesh is orange and sweet.
Cantaloupe melon (C. melo var. Cantalupensis): Its warty or smooth bark has marked ribs. Sweet orange flesh. For many, it is the ultimate melon. The “real” cantaloupe is mainly present on European markets.
Winter or odorless melon (C. melo var. Inodorus): Large melon, often oblong, with smooth bark, pale green, cream or white flesh and mild to sweet flavor. Includes among others the Honeydew honeydew (rather yellow-green flesh), the Crenshaw (juicy, with a slight spicy scent) and the Santa Claus (yellow and black bark, relatively unsweetened flesh).
Armenian melon (C. melo var. Flexuosus): Melon of elongated shape which can reach 1 m in length, with creamy flesh and whose slightly acidulous flavor recalls that of cucumber. It is generally eaten in salads or marinades.
Oriental melon (C. melo var. Conomon): Oblong melon which can reach 30 cm long and 10 cm thick. Very close to the cucumber, it differs from it by its denser flesh and smaller seeds. Widely used in the Orient for marinades.
Melon chito or melon-mango (C. melo var. Chito): Fruit the size of a lemon or an orange, with white flesh reminiscent of cucumber.
Foul melon (C. melo var. Dudain): Fruit the size of a lemon or orange, grown as an ornamental. Contrary to what its name indicates, it gives off a very pleasant fragrant odor, but it is not edible
If the melon is not ripe enough, leave it for 2 or 3 days at room temperature.
In the refrigerator. If it is well ripe, it will keep at most 2 or 3 days in the vegetable drawer. Preferably put it in a plastic bag to prevent it from communicating its odor to other foods.
In the freezer. Cut the flesh into cubes or dumplings and put to freeze in an airtight bag.
How to cook it? How to match it?
- The melon can be served in fruit or vegetable salads.
- In the punches and the sangrias.
- In ice cream, sorbet or granita.
- In jams, chutneys or salsas.
- With roasted prawns or langoustines.
- The melon slice served as a starter with prosciutto is a staple of Italian cuisine. You can serve this hot dish: brown the melon slices in the pan and deglaze with balsamic vinegar. We cover the melon and the ham with the vinegar.
- In Greece, it is rather eaten with feta cheese, alternating a bite of melon and a bite of cheese.
- Put the flesh in a blender with yogurt, honey or maple syrup, a tear of lemon and serve cold.
- Make a fresh cocktail by passing the flesh through a blender and diluting it with mineral water.
- Pour port on the slices before serving. Or serve it “à la rouergate” sprinkled with a walnut wine. Otherwise, use a very fresh muscat.
- Press the seeds with the fibrous parts of the fruit to extract the juice which you can use to deglaze a pan or prepare a sorbet.
- Small fruits cut at the time of pruning of plants can be preserved in vinegar like pickles.
Overripe melon: dangerous?
When they become too ripe, the fruits produce and accumulate ethanol (alcohol) which alters their taste. Ethanol from a fruit is not dangerous in itself, but it could pose a risk in people who are allergic to it. The few cases of anaphylactic reactions to ethanol reported in the scientific literature are linked to the consumption of alcoholic beverages. However, one declared case reports the consumption of an overripe melon provoking in an individual not allergic to the melon an anaphylactic reaction, caused by ethanol. Obviously, this particular situation remains rare, but it still requires a warning about the consumption of overripe fruit in people allergic to ethanol.
Melons can be contaminated with bacteria, such as salmonella, at various stages between their picking and their consumption. In recent years, a significant number of infections associated with the consumption of cantaloupe have been reported in the United States. Even if certain contamination factors cannot be prevented by the consumer, he can still make sure to minimize his risk of infection by taking a few precautions. The introduction of bacteria inside the fruit can occur during cutting, if the outside of the melon is previously contaminated. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. agency responsible for food control, has made the following recommendations:
- Avoid melons with bruises.
- Wash your hands with soap before handling the melon.
- Rub the melon with a brush under cold tap water before consumption.
- The intact fruit can be stored at room temperature if it is not yet ripe. The cut melon must be refrigerated within 2 hours of preparation.
Oral allergy syndrome
Melons are among the foods that can be implicated in oral allergy syndrome. This syndrome is an allergic reaction to certain proteins from a range of fruits, vegetables and nuts. It affects some people with allergies to environmental pollens and is almost always preceded by hay fever. So, when some people allergic to ragweed consume raw honeydew melon or those allergic to grass and sagebrush pollen consume raw melon (cooking usually degrades allergenic proteins), an immunological reaction may occur. These people experience itching and burning sensations in the mouth, lips and throat. Symptoms may appear, then disappear, usually a few minutes after consuming or touching the offending food. In the absence of other symptoms, this reaction is not serious and the consumption of melon does not have to be systematically avoided. However, it is recommended that you consult an allergist to determine the cause of reactions to plant foods. The latter will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.
History of melon
The term “melon”, which appeared in the French language in the 13th century, derives from the Latin melo or melopepone (literally “apple-melon”).
Winter melons used to be called “pompons”, a word probably derived from pepones, under which the Romans designated them at the beginning of our era.
The Asian fruit known as “hairy melon” is actually closer to squash. It belongs to another botanical species (Benincasa hispida). It is the same for the “bitter melon” (Momordica charantia), cultivated throughout Asia and prepared as a vegetable.
It has long been thought that the melon came from Central Asia or Iran. Genetic studies, crossbreeding trials, as well as the distribution of the species have allowed researchers to estimate that it would rather come from sub-Saharan Africa. In these regions there are still wild varieties with small inedible berries. From there, it would have known a very wide distribution from the Middle East to China, via India and Afghanistan. Archaeological remains indicate that it was cultivated in Iran and China 5,000 years ago, and in Egypt 4,000 years ago.
Although the Moors encouraged its production in Spain from the 8th century, it did not arouse any real interest until the 15th or 16th century. Varieties with sweet and larger fruit were then designed. During the Renaissance, Italian monks crossed a variety producing a tasty fruit to which they gave the name of the papal residence where they had produced it (Cantalupo). The Greeks and the Romans preferred watermelon (watermelon) to melon , which at that time was rather tasteless. In fact, it was considered a vegetable. It was eaten cooked or in salads, vinegar, peppery and garnished with other spices. In Rome, its price was still very high, due to its rarity. The Emperor Diocletian even had to issue an edict to fix the price.
Christopher Columbus will introduce the melon on the island of Hispaniola (in the Greater Antilles) in 1494 during his second trip to America. It will probably be the first fruit to be grown there. It is found in Central America in 1516, in Virginia in 1609 and in New York in 1629.
Today, melons are grown all over the world, in the ground or in a greenhouse, depending on the region. The selection of early varieties, irrigation and fertilization make it possible to cultivate it in climates normally unfavorable for its good growth. But, it turns out to say that what he gained in distribution, he lost in quality. In their eyes, nothing beats the melon cultivated in a soil little or not irrigated, and exposed to the hot sun of the South.
Apart from the fruits, the seeds are eaten, roasted in India, dried and powdered in Africa. In addition, on this continent as well as in China, we attribute medicinal properties to the leaves, stems and roots of the plant.
Melon is not an easy fruit to grow. The results are often disappointing, but if you follow a few basic principles, you can do it.
- Choose varieties suited to the climate of your region, and the warmest and sunniest corner of the garden.
- Make mounds of at least twenty centimeters (up to 40 cm) and spaced one meter apart. Ideally, you will have trained them the previous fall.
- Make sure the soil is warmed up well before planting. Put a sheet of black plastic a few days in advance to heat it further.
- If the garden is exposed to the wind, protect the square with windbreaks.
- The pH should be around 6 to 7.5. If it is lower, add lime.
- Dig a good hole in the mound and fill with compost or good decomposed manure. If necessary, add a natural potassium fertilizer.
It is possible to sow in the open ground, but many prefer to start their plants indoors, 3 or 4 weeks before planting them. Sow in individual containers. The melon, like all the plants of the cucurbit family, hates being disturbed by its roots. Transplant with the greatest delicacy.
Keep the young plants warm by protecting them with a tunnel made of plastic or agrotextile fabric. Remove it only when the temperature remains above 15 ºC.
Be sure to irrigate regularly, but not excessively, until the time of fruit formation. It will then be necessary to increase the water supply. Stop irrigation a few days before harvest.
For full ripening
Old peasants recommend turning the fruit a quarter of a turn every 2 or 3 days when it weighs around 200 g, so that it is nicely sweet and reaches a uniform maturity.
Leaf size is not compulsory, especially for modern varieties. But it clearly facilitates the maintenance of the melon square which would otherwise turn into a real jungle. It also increases the chances of having ripe melons in point before the arrival of fall gels. On the Internet, there are clear indications on how to make the size.
The striped beetle is the most feared pest in our climates. In case of severe infestation, treat with rotenone.
Powdery mildew (or “white”) is now universally widespread. It is a disease produced by certain fungi and has the effect of greatly affecting the flavor of melons. It usually appears towards the end of the season, when the fruit is fully ripened. Weekly applications of sulfur, garlic extract or baking soda solution will limit the damage.
Ecology and environment
In Nigeria, farmers are used to planting melons as a mixed crop with peas, corn and sweet potatoes. All these plants are planted at the same time. The long, creeping stems of the melon completely cover the soil and prevent weeds from growing. As the plant grows quickly and ripens its fruit in 3 months, it releases the soil in time so that the sweet potato, which grows much more slowly, can grow without suffering from competition from weeds. As for the pea, which climbs on corn plants, it brings nitrogen to other crops.
This system allows the poor fortune peasant to offer his family a variety of food. It also provides some insurance against the vagaries of the climate. If, for various reasons, one of these four plants yields less, there are still three others. Finally, in mixed crops, plants are significantly less attacked by insects and diseases, and therefore require less pesticides.