March 21, 2018
Cantaloupe Melon

Melons: High in Nutrition

by Berkeley Wellness

Although it doesn’t seem as though a honeydew melon and a Hubbard squash have much in common, the two belong to the same botanical family. Melons, squash, and cucumbers are members of the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd family; they all grow on vines. Except for watermelons, all melons resemble winter squash in structure—they have a thick flesh with a central seed-filled cavity.

The principal difference between melons and squash is the way they are used. While squash are treated as vegetables, most melons are considered fruits, and are sweet and juicy. The exceptions such as bitter melon and winter melon—which all have alternative “gourd” or “squash” names like bitter squash and winter gourd—are treated as vegetables.

Most melons originated in the Near East, and from there spread throughout Europe. The ancient Egyptians enjoyed muskmelons (which we usually call cantaloupes in the U.S. and Canada), as did the ancient Romans. It was during the era of the Roman Empire that melons were introduced into Europe. But melons were not well known in northern Europe until the 15th century, when they became hugely popular at the French royal court. Melon seeds were carried to America by Columbus, and later Spanish explorers cultivated muskmelons in what is now California.

Types of Melons

Although cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew are the best-known melons, your supermarket or local farmer’s market may have other varieties for sale.Ananas: This muskmelon variety was grown by Thomas Jefferson. It has an oval shape, a yellow to tan skin, with sandy-hued reticulation (netting) that becomes more prominent as the melon ripens.

Melons: Nutrition

Nutritionally, melons bring together the best of summer and winter squash: They resemble summer squash in their high water content and low calorie count, but approach winter squash in their nutrient value. Melons are a good source of potassium, vitamin C, and some of the B vitamins. Soluble pectin fiber provided by many melons may contribute to healthy cholesterol levels.

For a full listing of nutrients, see the National Nutrient Database.

How to Choose the Best Melons

Traditional methods such as thumping and shaking melons are not accurate indicators of ripeness. Find out how to choose the best, ripest fruit.

How to Store Melons

You can improve the eating quality of firm, uncut melons by leaving them at room temperature for two to four days. The fruit will not become sweeter, but it will turn softer and juicier. If during that time the fruit has not reached its peak ripeness, it was picked when immature and will not be worth eating. Once ripened or cut, melons should be refrigerated and used within about two days. Enclose them in plastic bags to protect other produce in the refrigerator from the ethylene gas that melons give off. Ripe melons are also very fragrant, and the aroma of a cut melon can penetrate other foods.

How to Use Melons

With the exception of watermelon and horned melon, preparation is the same for all melons. Simply cut the melon open and remove the seeds and strings. It can be served in many attractive ways: cut into halves, quarters, wedges, or cubes; or the flesh can be scooped out with a melon baller.

Like pumpkin or butternut squash, orange-fleshed varieties of melons contain beta-carotene. Melons are also good sources of other carotenoids. For example, watermelon is a good source of lycopene, a red pigment also present in tomatoes. Honeydew melon is a good source of zeaxanthin, a carotenoid thought to help shield delicate eye tissue from damaging ultraviolet radiation, among other functions.

6 Ways to Serve Melons

Melons make a refreshing salad or smoothie. But what about curries or stews? Try these six interesting ways to serve delicious melon.

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