Superfood 101: Honeydew Melons!

Honeydew melons are a member of the family Cucurbitaceae of the genus Cucumis in the species Cucumis melo var. Further clarification of honeydew melon is that they are a member of the Gourd family and the nomenclature in America is derived from the White Antibes melon that has been cultivated in southern France and Algeria. In these regions honeydew melons have been grown since the late 15th century. The honeydew came to the United States in 1911 where it was served in a New York restaurant and one patron who enjoyed the melon saved the seeds and sent them to plant breeder John E. Gauger who lived in Colorado. He cultivated the plant which in 1915 was identified by the United States Department of Agriculture as White Antibes and later renamed Honeydew. The melon has been recorded as early as 2400 B.C. E. as found in Egyptian tombs. They are a versatile fruit used in salads, pureed, and as a refreshing snack. It is an excellent food for babies to maintain their growing bodies, and it’s low in calories.

The Honeydew melon is round or can be slightly oval in shape and ranges in size from four to eight pounds. It has a firm outer skin that has a smooth to velvety texture with a hue that ranges from light green to a yellow, white tone and becomes slightly sticky with maturity. The fruit is light green, darker to the rind, and lighter at the seed area with a crisp and juicy texture. Once the melon is harvested it becomes soft but maintains its sweet flavor.

Health Benefits of Honeydew Melons

Honeydew melons are rich in nutrients that include fiber, vitamin C, thiamine (B1), niacin (B3), potassium, and copper. They are low in calories, containing sixty calories per one-half cup coming from fourteen grams of natural sugar. Other nutrients found in honeydew melons include pyridoxine (B6), pantothenic acid (B5), and folic acid (B9). They also contain amino acids that include tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, leucine, and lysine.

Because vitamin C is a water soluble antioxidant, honeydew melon increases the function of the adrenal glands, enhances the production of cell energy, and boosts the immune system. It also contributes to healthy gums, aids in maintaining healthy skin, and is beneficial to the circulatory and the skeletal systems. This vitamin also speeds up the body’s healing process. To add to the health benefits of honeydew melon: the presence of potassium also aids in maintaining healthy bones and reduces the incidents of muscle cramps.

Other health benefits of honeydew melon is the presence of vitamin K that contributes to the body’s ability to clot blood and is a catalyst for the bone building protein osteocalcin to bind with calcium for healthy bones and increased mineralization. The folate in honeydew melon maintains brain function by inhibiting the development of neural tube defects which can cause spina bifida and anencephaly. It also aids in the prevention of hearing loss, especially in seniors.

How to Grow Honeydew Melons

Honeydew melons are easily grown in the garden. In colder climates, it is advised to start seeds indoors about three weeks before the last frost as they need a long growing period. Place the three seeds one-half inch deep in a flat or small pot keeping the soil moist and warm, between eighty and ninety degrees Fahrenheit while germinating. Once the seeds have germinated, reduce the heat to approximately seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit for one to two weeks and thin to one plant per pot, and reduce the amount of moisture to the soil. Gradually expose the plants to the outdoor climate and transplant the seedlings after the last frost.

To grow honeydew melons warmer climates, plant them directly into the garden. Plant seeds one to two weeks after the last frost when the soil is warmer than seventy degrees Fahrenheit in sandy, well-draining soil. Six seeds should be put in the ground half an inch deep in hills four to six feet apart, but they can be planted closer if trellised. Mulch the area for consistent moisture and to deter weeds. Once the seedlings emerge, thin to two to three plants per hill, carefully, not disturbing the roots. Once the plant bears fruit the size of a tennis ball water only if the ground is dry or the leaves are wilting. Harvest when melon is ripe and turns from green or grey to yellow and is easily removed from the stem.