Muskmelon (Cucumis melo) is a species of melon that has been developed into many cultivated varieties. These include smooth skinned varietes, such as honeydew, and different netted cultivars known as cantaloupes (some of which, confusingly, may be particularly identified as "muskmelon"). The large number of cultivars in this species approaches that found in wild cabbage, though morphological variation is not as extensive. It is an accessory fruit of a type that botanists call an epigynous berry. Muskmelon is native to northwestern India from where it spread to China and Europe. The varied cultivars produced have been divided into multiple cultivar groups.
- The Cantalupensis group includes the European "cantaloupe" with skin that is rough and warty, not netted. This melon is not cultivated in North America. It is grown in South Africa, where it is called the spanspek. Listed sometimes as Cucumis melo cantalupensis.
- The Chito group is the "garden melon." Also known as the "chate" of Egypt, "mango melon," "lemon melon," "orange melon," "apple melon," or "vine peach." Referred to sometimes as Cucumis melo melo chito.
- The Conomon group is the "Oriental pickling melon;" photos it is also known as the "Sweet melon," "Chekiang melon," or "Chinese white cucumber."
- The Dudaim group is the "apple melon" (although see Chito group above); it is also known as the "fragrant melon," "pocket melon," "Queen Anne's pocket melon," "vine pomegranate," "plum granny," and "dudaim melon." Listed sometimes within Cucumis melo melo var. chito.
- The Flexuosus group is the "Azerbaijanian cucumber;" also known as the "Armenian cucumber," "snake melon," "serpent cucumber," "snake cucumber," "serpent melon," or "Oriental cucumber."
- The Inodorus group includes "honeydew melon" (aka "honeydew"), "crenshaw melon," "casaba melon" (aka "casaba"), Hami melon, Piel de Sapo, "winter melon," "American melon," "fragrant melon," or "Oriental sweet melon." These have smooth rinds and do not have a musky odor. It is the third most popular type of melon, after the watermelon and cantaloupe. Honeydew has a smooth, white rind and sweet green flesh. When eaten, the texture is similar to a reticulated cantaloupe, but the flavor more subtle and sweeter. Classified sometimes as Cucumis melo inodorus.
- The Makuwa Group is the "Japanese cantaloupe;" it is eaten in Japanese and Korean cuisine and is called chamoe in Korean photo
- The Reticulatus Group includes the "netted melon," "winter melon," and ""North American" cantaloupe." Other common names are the "nutmeg melon" and "Persian melon." "Muskmelon" is also sometimes used to refer to this type in particular. These are the most popular melons cultivated in commerce. They are classified as Cucumis melo melo var. cantalupensis by some authors. This group includes the recently rediscovered Montreal melon.
The culture of honeydew and muskmelon ideally requires a good deal of readily available water for irrigation, and hot, humid summers. These melons are susceptible to fungal infections by fusarium and verticillium wilts, as well as a bacterial wilt transmitted by the cucumber beetle. The vines may be attacked by moths in the family Sesiidae, such as the "squash vine borer" (Melittia cucurbitae).
Various kinds of melon seeds are edible, and are sold as snacks in shops, by names as kwaci and kwatji. For this purpose, they are dried and often salted. The names come from Chinese 瓜子 guāzi; they are a very common snack food in China. People use the term "muskmelon" and "cantaloupe" interchangeably. In truth they are the same thing.
Cantaloupe melons are a good source of potassium, Vitamin A and folate . The potassium is helpful in preventing kidney stones and cantaloupes in general are a useful laxative. North American cantaloupes are the most beta-carotene-rich of all melons and are also high in Vitamin C.
Honeydew melons contain few nutrients and modest amounts of potassium but almost no Vitamin A.
In addition to consumption of the fresh fruit, melons are sometimes dried and stored as melon leather. Other varieties are cooked as vegetables or grown for their seeds, which are processed to produce melon oil. Still other varieties are grown only for their pleasant fragrance..
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