Cucurbitaceae (Cucumber family) greatly among melon types and cultivars.
Description. Annual herbaceous creeping or climbing plant. Monoecious or rarely hermaphroditic yellow flowers are borne in small clusters. Fruit size, shape, color, and rind firmness vary greatly among melon types and cultivars. Fruits usually spherical or ovoid, yellow with smooth, ridged, or corky skin. Firm, juicy flesh is orange, pink, white, or green. The central cavity contains numerous flat whitish seeds.
Origin and Distribution. The exact origin of the muskmelon is unclear. The plant is possibly native to Iran, Afghanistan, or subtropical, inter-Himalayan valleys of Pakistan or India, where nondomesticated forms exist. Some authors also suggest a sub-Saharan origin. Historical records show that muskmelons were cultivated in Egypt as early as 2400 BC. The melon grows naturally in semiarid, tropical, and subtropical conditions.
Food uses. Ripe fruits are seeded and eaten as fresh fruit or used in fruit salads or desserts. Unripe, green fruits of some varieties can be preserved by pickling. They are also eaten raw in salads or boiled as a vegetable.
Comments. C. melo melons are commonly divided into eight groups or varieties. Especially important commercially are the varieties reticulatus (netted muskmelon, cantaloupe), with corky netting on the skin and sweet, aromatic flesh, and the green, smooth-skinned variety cantalupensis (European cantaloupe), with larger, orange-fleshed fruits. Smooth yellow or greenish varieties of C. melo of the Inodorus group are often called honeydew melons. Melons in the Chito group (mango melon) have a cucumber-like texture. The fruits are eaten boiled or pickled. The largest producers of muskmelons are China, Turkey, and Iran.