Melons are part of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes cucumbers, squash and gourds. There are hundreds of varieties of melons grown around the world, but only a handful are commonly found in local supermarkets. Melons are defined as having a rind, soft edible flesh and seeds produced from a single ovary. Their sweet, juicy flesh can vary in color from orange, yellow, red, green or white depending on the variety. The rind or skin acts as a protective coating and can be smooth, netted or furrowed. With hundreds of varieties, there are many different types of melons to discover. Some of the most common include watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and Galia. Keep reading to learn more about popular melon varieties.
The watermelon is one of the most popular melons in the United States and around the world. Watermelons are thought to have originated in southern Africa, where evidence suggests they were cultivated as early as the 2nd millennium BC. Early watermelons were likely bitter and unpalatable, but over centuries of cultivation they became the sweet, juicy melon we know today. Watermelons are 92% water, making them extremely hydrating and low in calories. A one-cup serving contains only 46 calories. Watermelons are an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as antioxidants like lycopene. Studies show that lycopene may help lower the risk of heart disease and some cancers. The citrulline found in watermelon rind has also been linked to lower blood pressure.
Watermelons can be enjoyed in many ways. The flesh can be eaten raw, used in smoothies, blended into agua fresca drinks, or used in salsas. Watermelon rinds can be pickled, stir fried, or candied. Watermelon seeds are a nutritious snack when roasted and salted. Overall watermelon is a nutritious and versatile fruit that lives up to its popularity around the world.
Cantaloupes are one of the most popular varieties of melon around the world. Known for their distinct orange flesh and sweet flavor, cantaloupes originate from the Middle East and India. The name “cantaloupe” comes from the Italian town Cantalupo, where these melons were first grown in Europe during the Middle Ages. True cantaloupes have a rough, netted rind with deep grooves. Inside, the flesh is aromatic, juicy and salmon-colored. Cantaloupes are incredibly sweet and flavorful when ripe. The flesh has a soft, creamy texture and prominent notes of both fruit and flowers. The flavor is enhanced by the melon’s high sugar content. Cantaloupes contain more sugar than most other fruits and melons.
These melons are commonly eaten fresh and used in fruit salads, smoothies, juices and desserts. Cantaloupe pairs well with prosciutto as an appetizer. Due to its sweetness, cantaloupe also works great in salsas, chutneys and soups to provide a balance of flavors. Cantaloupe can also be roasted, grilled, pickled or used to infuse liquors for cocktails. Overall, cantaloupes are a versatile and refreshing summer fruit. Their sweet taste and soft texture make them an enduring warm-weather favorite.
Honeydew melons have a sweet, juicy flesh with a subtle, honey-like taste that gives them their name. These melons have a smooth yellow rind with light green flesh. Compared to some other melons, honeydew has a firmer, crisper texture. The flesh is juicy while still being dense. Honeydew melons are extremely versatile. Their sweet flavor pairs well in fruit salads, and the melon balls or spears make an attractive addition. Slices of honeydew work well for sandwiches and wraps. The melon’s high water content makes it ideal for smoothies and juice blends. Pureed honeydew can be used to make refreshing sorbets.
These melons provide a range of nutritional benefits. Honeydew is low in calories, with only 60 calories per cup. It contains vitamin C, potassium, and B vitamins. As a good source of water and electrolytes, honeydew helps hydrate the body. The cucurbitacins found in the rind may have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Overall, honeydew makes for a nutritious and refreshing snack or addition to recipes. The juicy flesh, subtle sweetness, and nutritional profile make honeydew a tasty and versatile melon appreciated for its culinary uses and health benefits. This popular melon livens up fruit salads, smoothies, sorbets, and more.
The Galia melon is a fragrant and sweet hybrid variety that originated in Israel in the 1970s. It was developed by breeders at the Agricultural Research Organization of Israel by crossing a green-fleshed melon from France with a finer textured cantaloupe from Portugal. Galia melons have a spherical to oval shape and range from 3-6 pounds in weight. The rind is smooth with no netting, and turns yellowish-orange when ripe. The flesh is pale green in color and has a mild, sweet flavor reminiscent of pear and vanilla. It has a juicy texture similar to honeydew but is more aromatic.
Galia melons peak during the summer months and grow well in warm climates. The melons store longer than traditional cantaloupes and have greater resistance to diseases like powdery mildew. The melons are in demand for their extended shelf life and become softer and sweeter in flavor after harvest. Galia is now cultivated globally in regions like South America, Europe, and the United States. It is commonly sliced for fruit salads or eaten alone as a healthy low-calorie snack.
The Canary melon, also known as Juan Canary melon, is a type of sweet muskmelon originating from the island of Mallorca off the coast of Spain. It is oval in shape and has a pale yellow rind with slight sutures. The flesh inside is white, creamy, and has a mildly sweet flavor reminiscent of a pear. The Canary melon likely originated and was cultivated in Mallorca in the 1700s. The name “Canary” comes from the fact that the melons were exported from the Canary Islands to other parts of Europe. This melon variety became popular across Europe in the 1800s and was introduced to North America around 1900.
When ripe, Canary melons have a fruity aroma and weigh between 2-5 pounds. The rind turns from green to golden yellow and feels slightly soft. Inside, the flesh is creamy white or pale green. The texture is creamy yet firm. The flesh has a sweet, mild, and faintly floral flavor. It is not as sweet or aromatic as other melons. Canary melons are often enjoyed simply sliced as a refreshing snack. The melon balls or cubes can be used fresh in fruit salads. The melons pair well with prosciutto as an appetizer. The flesh can also be pureed into cold soups or used to flavor sorbets. Canary melons contain beneficial nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and beta-carotene.
The winter melon, also known as ash gourd or wax gourd, is a vegetable native to South and Southeast Asia. It gets its name from its thick, waxy rind that allows it to be stored for many months during the winter. In terms of appearance, the winter melon has a round or oblong shape and pale green skin covered in a powdery, waxy bloom. The rind is firm and thick. Inside, the flesh is white, spongy, and crispy in texture. The edible seeds are enclosed in a soft pulp. When fully ripe, winter melons can grow quite large, averaging 10-20 pounds.
Winter melon is widely used in Asian cuisines, especially in Chinese cooking. The young fruit can be eaten fresh, but the flesh of a mature winter melon is most commonly used in soups and stews. It has a very mild flavor that absorbs the tastes of other ingredients. Dried winter melon slices are often added to braised meat dishes and winter melon soup is popular in many regions. Cooked winter melon has a silky texture and is said to have cooling properties, making it a refreshing summer food. The seeds are also edible when roasted.
Snap melons are related to cucumbers and get their name from their crunchy texture. When ripe, snap melons have a crisp, juicy flesh that separates easily when the melon is snapped open. The flavor of snap melons is described as sweet and mild with cucumber undertones. The flesh ranges in color from pale green to white. Snap melons are smaller than many other melons, growing to about 5-6 inches long, and have a round or oval shape.
Some popular varieties of snap melon include ‘Sugar Snap’, ‘Eden’s Gem’, and ‘Crystal’. Snap melons grow on vines and require warm weather, so they are in season during summer months. At the peak of freshness, snap melons have a signature snapping sound when pried open. Their crunchy, refreshing taste makes them ideal for eating raw and incorporating into summer salads.
There are several more exotic and less common types of melons that originate from various parts of the world. These unique melons offer different flavors, textures, and appearances that set them apart from the more popular melons. The Santa Claus melon has an oblong shape like a small watermelon, with a green and yellow rind. The creamy white flesh is sweet, crisp and juicy. It is thought to originate from Spain.
The Casaba melon is spherical with a wrinkled golden rind and white flesh. It has a very sweet flavor and smooth, creamy texture when ripe. Casaba melons come from warm climates like Brazil and parts of the Middle East. Crenshaw melons are aptly named for their crescent moon shape. They have a yellow-green smooth rind and their flesh ranges from pink to orange. Crenshaws are known for being very sweet and having a delicate floral aroma. They were first grown in California. While not as common commercially, these exotic melons offer some unique characteristics and flavors for adventurous fruit lovers. Their diversity shows just how many different iterations of melons there are across the world.
Melons are an incredibly diverse and delicious group of fruits that come in many varieties. As we’ve explored, some of the most popular types include watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and galia. Watermelon is known for its sweet, juicy red flesh and black seeds. Cantaloupe has an orange flesh and a musky aroma. Honeydews are sweet with a pale green flesh. Galias are sweet and have an oval shape with yellowish skin. In summary, melons are an extremely diverse fruit group that comes in many shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. Their popularity endures for good reason – they are delicious, refreshing, and nutritious. Exploring the many varieties of melons is an exciting way to add new flavors and nutrition to your diet.