Botanical name: Cucumis melo
The melon is a climbing or creeping plant and this name indicates both the plant and its fruit, edible, very fragrant and sweet: it belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family and the scientific term is Cucumis melo.
The extension of the radial apparatus reaches up to 150 centimeters, while the leaves with long petioles and 5-lobed yellow flowers grow on the branched stem. The melon is grown in most of the world for its fruit, which grows every year; however, despite the fact that the flowering lasts from May to September and is very abundant, only 10% bear fruit.
Origins and history
This plant comes from Asia or Africa and began to spread in the Mediterranean basin around the 5th century BC, and then arrived in Italy in the 1st century AD: in fact it was classified for the first time by Pliny the old.
Among the Romans the melon immediately met with great success, even if it was considered a vegetable and consumed in the form of a salad.
There are many different varieties of melon, which differ according to their fruit: in fact the color of the pulp ranges from yellow to white and orange. The winter melons have a taste reminiscent of that of pear, with a pinkish-white pulp: it is a typical Christmas dish in Sicily and has a smooth skin. On the other hand, the variety 'cantaloupe' is native to the locality of the same name on the hills of Rome, has a yellow-orange pulp, a smooth surface and is of medium size. Finally, netted melons have white flesh, while bitter melon is used as a medicinal plant. Furthermore, the melon is used as a fruit if harvested ripe and as a vegetable if picked unripe
Nutritional and beneficial properties of the Melon
The melon is almost entirely composed of water (about 95% of its total weight). For this reason it is a very consumed fruit during the summer, as it gives relief from the heat and a feeling of freshness. At the same time, it helps relieve heartburn and purify the kidneys. Furthermore, the melon has a high content of mineral salts and vitamins, while the percentage of saturated fats present is equal to zero. In particular, it contains calcium, phosphorus and iron, while from the point of view of vitamins there are mainly those of groups A, B and C.
It should be kept in mind that, due to the fact that it is composed almost entirely of water, melon has very few calories, only 60 calories per serving. Finally, this fruit is recommended for those suffering from hypertension or for people at risk of heart attack or with cardiovascular problems: in fact it contains an anticoagulant agent, which prevents blood clots.
The bitter melon variety has recently been adopted in the treatment for the prevention of pancreatic cancer.
Use of the melon in the kitchen
Melons are part of the same family as yellow pumpkins and cucumbers, however they are much sweeter so they are eaten as fruit. They can be eaten both raw and cooked: in the first case they are served as a dessert or as an appetizer, or as an afternoon snack or fresh breakfast. If, on the other hand, you decide to cook the melon, you get jams and compotes.
In addition, it can be used as an ingredient to make a large number of recipes, from sorbets to fruit salads, from ice creams to smoothies; always in summer it can be enjoyed in the form of fruit centrifuged.
Finally, it is combined with other fruits or vegetables, for example to create fruit skewers or salads: in this case it is cut into cubes and served together with cucumbers in thin slices. However, it is important that the fruit is ripe at the right point and this can be understood from its scent. Even the seeds, usually unused, can be consumed: just wash them, dry them and sprinkle them with salt. At this point they are fried in a pan over high heat until they start to crackle and eat them like pretzels.
The melon was in ancient times the symbol of fertility, but often with this name in Italy the "fools" were indicated. In the sixteenth century it was considered harmful if consumed in large quantities, so much so that the doctors of the time linked the deaths of two popes and four emperors to their abuse. At the time of the Roman emperor Diocletian, the consumption of these fruits was so widespread that an edict was proclaimed to tax the sale of specimens weighing over 200 grams.