Snowball Melons caught my eye in one of my local supermarkets. I was intrigued by the strange green markings on an otherwise creamy, smooth surface. They looked like an abstract painting. On checking, I found that Snowball Melons had been on sale in the UK for a few years. They are promoted as a Christmas speciality.
Taste Test and Origin
I tried the new Snowball Melon and found it to be juicy and sweet. I would liken it to the taste of a Honeydew Melon. Afterwards, I did some research on the Snowball Melon and was surprised to discover that it had come from all the way from Brazil. Its native origin seems to be Korea.
Fresh Field Melons
Delicious Melons were introduced to me by my French hosts during a holiday in Provence. Before that stay, I had written Melons off as tasteless. I discovered the sweet taste of French Melons straight from sunny fields and the Aix-en-Provence market. I could not believe the flavour. I relished them every day for the rest of my holiday, often with a dash of Muscat poured into the hollowed-out centre.
I stayed near Cavaillon, famous for its Melons. I tasted fruit that had been freshly collected from the sun-drenched fields. Sunshine plays a crucial role in the fruit’s sweetness. The Melon de Cavaillon website explains that Melons grown in its fields benefit from 2,800 hours of sunshine, 800 hours more than the rest of France. A true Melon de Cavaillon has to be grown according to the established best practices for premium conventional or organic production. Brand recognition is awarded by Cavaillon’s Master Melon Growers’ Association, the Syndicat des Maîtres Melonniers de Cavaillon.
The Melon, Cucumis melo, is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family and Cucurbitales order along with cucumber, squash, gourds and pumpkins. Kew’s Plants of the World states that the Melon is of unknown origin, although the subspecies agrestis wild forms are recognised as African. Mediterranean domestication occurred during Roman times.
Today’s major Melon producers are China, France, India, Spain, Turkey and the USA. The Melon was one of the first plants to be domesticated. The number of Melon varieties has snowballed since ancient times. Plants of the World lists 7 cultivar groups:
- True Cantaloupes (Cucumis melo var. cantalupensis group)
- Muskmelons, Rockmelons and False Cantaloupes (Cucumis melo var. reticulatus group)
- Honeydew and Chinese Melons (Cucumis melo var. inodorus group)
- Snake Melons (Cucumis melo var. flexuosus group)
- Pickling Melons and Sweet Melons (Cucumis melo var. conomon group)
- Orange Melons (Cucumis melo var. chito group)
- Dudaim Melons (Cucumis melo var. dudaim group)
(The Watermelon belongs in a different genus. Its Latin name is Citrullus lanatus).
Melon seeds are also edible. They are roasted before eating in the Middle East. They are regarded as a health and vegetarian food in the West. Other countries use them crushed in cooking to thicken stews and curries, or add them to sweets, buns, flatbreads and drinks.
Melon is an ideal light starter before a heavy meal, like Christmas dinner or as a dessert. It is a particularly quick, easy and healthy dish to offer as a dinner party starter or on a serving platter at a party. It looks colourful and appetising if you select different melons. You can use a melon baller, add alcohol and a few mint leaves for decoration. If you are particularly creative, you can turn your melon into a ship centrepiece. Alternatively, a simple combination of Parma Ham and Melon with its salty and sweet combination always seems to go down well.
Changing Food Habits?
Of course, Melons can be grown under glass as well as sourced from the Mediterranean, Brazil, etc. The British have become markedly more adventurous and knowledgeable in their food choices in my lifetime. The Climate Emergency is now forcing us to rethink our diets again. Flying food huge distances across the world is now questionable as we struggle to reduce carbon emissions. It is suggested that we should all buy our food from locally sustainable sources or grow our own fruit and vegetables. It is certainly food for thought as UN Climate Change COP 25 talks take place in Madrid from 2-13 December 2019.
© Karen Netto (Andrews)
References and Further Reading
Christenhusz, Maarten J. M., Fay, Michael F. & Chase, Mark W. (2017): Plants of the World. An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Vascular Plants. Kew. Chicago.
Freeman, Chris (2018): Snowball Melon – Why It’s My Favourite (+ Health Benefits). Healing Plant Foods. September 2018. Last accessed 4 December 2019
Melon de Cavaillon (2018): Production du Melon de Cavaillon. Un terroir unique. Last accessed 4 December 2019.
Rahman-Jones, Imran (2019): Climate Change: The COP25 talks trying to change the world. BBC News (Children’s Newsbeat reporter) 3 December 2019.
RHS (2019): Grow your own fruit. Melons. Last accessed 4 December 2019.