What is a melon?
Aromatic, juicy and sweet, cantaloupe or honeydew melons with a squeeze of lime juice bring back memories of hot summer days at the beach for many Australians. Both types of melon are also a fresh, summery addition to salads to accompany barbequed meats. Sweet melon wrapped in prosciutto has become a dinner party classic.
Melons were grown nearly 4,000 years ago in Persia (now Iran) and northern Africa and introduced to Europe in the early part of the 15th century. The ancient Greeks and Romans cultivated melons and eventually the plant reached Spain, France and the UK. Christopher Columbus carried melon seeds to North America.
In Australia, melons are grown in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia.
In Australia, melons come in many varieties and a range of sizes. The most common melon available is the cantaloupe (or rockmelon), with a netted, beige skin and orange flesh.
Pale green-skinned and yellow-skinned Honeydew melons with green flesh are also available. The green-skinned types are usually sweeter than the yellow-skinned fruit.
Why melon is good to eat
- Melons are a good source of vitamin C and contain vitamins A (important for growth and development and the maintenance of your immune system) and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- They also contain minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure), manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function) and magnesium (involved in the regulation of muscle, heart and nerve function and keeping bones strong).
- Melons contain dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of cantaloupe supplies 120 kJ
- Energy – 100 g of yellow-skinned Honeydew melon supplies 105 kJ (green skin 150kJ).
- Energy – 100 g of watermelon supplies 125 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
All melons grow on trailing vines. The plant grows best in hot climates and has large, green leaves that are rough to the touch. These grow on long stems that come off the main trailing stem of the plant.
Melons are ready for picking about three to four months after planting. Cantaloupes are picked by hand when they are fully ripe (known as ‘full slip’) and the fruit easily separates from the stem when you apply slight pressure. Honeydew melons can ripen after harvesting and are picked when the skin is green or yellow, depending on the variety.
Choose melons that feel heavy for their size and have a pleasant smell. Avoid melons that have soft spots, blotches or bruises on their skin.
How to store and keep melon
Store whole melons at room temperature. They will last for up to one week. Cut melons should be wrapped in plastic and stored in the crisper section of your fridge.
Honeydew melons stored at room temperature (unlike other melons) will ripen after two to three days.
How to use
- Add melon to seafood – toss melon with cooked prawns, then add shredded mint and coriander leaves, chopped fresh red chilli and dress with a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.
- Make an easy salad – combine chunks of melon with slices of pear, then add finely sliced shallots or red onion and mint leaves and drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar.
- Serve a simple starter – arrange slices of smoked salmon and sliced cantaloupe or green-fleshed melon on a platter, then whisk lime juice, freshly grated ginger, olive oil, and pepper and drizzle over the fruit.
- Try chicken with a melon salsa – combine sliced cucumber, chunks of melon, cherry tomatoes, basil, fresh chilli and lime juice, then add sliced grilled chicken (or lamb or beef) that has been marinated in garlic, soy sauce, lime juice and chilli.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Better Health Channel
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