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Nectarines »« Melons: Honeydew

Melons Rock melon, Cantaloupe

Cucumis melo


Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand

Description

You’ll often see rock melon referred to as ‘cantaloupe’, or sometimes ‘musk melon’. Though it’s technically a vegetable, related to other vine crops such as pumpkins and cucumbers, What’s Fresh has classed it as a fruit because that’s how it’s normally used and thought of.

Rock melon has a rough, grey skin that’s earned it yet another name of ‘netted melon’ for the netting effect on its skin. Under the netted skin is firm, peach-coloured, fragrant flesh that’s less sweet than the honeydew.

Rock melon is an excellent source of vitamin A, from its high levels of beta-carotene. It’s also a good way to get your daily helping of vitamins C and B6, as well as potassium, fibre, folate, and niacin (vitamin B3).

Choose a rock melon with pronounced netting, and follow your nose; ripe melons should have a deep, sweet scent. The background skin ranges from a beige or fawn colour to a more golden shade. Look for a slightly flattened side from where the melon rested on the ground and slight dampness on the stem end. Pick it up: it should feel heavy for its size. Rock melon needs to be eaten quickly, so store it for one or two days at room temperature, or two or three days in the fridge.

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History

Melons probably originate in Persia, Afghanistan and Armenia, and while not much is known about their history, there’s evidence that the Greeks and Romans knew about them.

Ancient melons seem to have been more like cucumber, however, but by the 3rd century had been cultivated into something sweeter and were eaten with spices, and by the 6th or 7th century were thought of in their own right.

There are references in texts in the 15th and 16th centuries referring to them as being delicious and aromatic, and by then seeds were being left wherever explorers ventured.

Uses

Rock melon is best eaten raw, as it doesn’t hold up well when cooked. Try it in fruit salad, or place halved melon in the freezer and scoop it out like ice cream.

Try adding cut melon to a fruit punch for some extra fruity sweetness.

Facts

Though the names ‘rock melon’ and ‘cantaloupe’ are used interchangeably, the true cantaloupe (Cucumis cantalupensis) is smaller and has a tougher skin than rock melon. It’s grown more in the Middle East and Europe than in North America or Australia. The name ‘cantaloupe’ probably comes from the Papal Gardens of Cantalupo in Italy, where it’s thought it was first grown.

In 1941, medical researchers were having a hard time producing enough penicillin fungi to fully cure infections, until they found a different type of the fungi on a rock melon at the grocery store. This fungi was able to produce 200 times the amount of penicillin, and with some tweaking, they were able to make it produce 1000 times the amount of penicillin they’d previously been able to.



Nectarines »« Melons: Honeydew

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