Along with squash and cucumbers, honeydew and other melons belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, whose members grow on trailing or climbing vines with pointed, rounded or folded leaves and small yellow flowers. Honeydew is slightly oval and has a smooth, creamy pale yellow-green or white rind that turns yellow when ripe. This fruit can help to keep blood pressure low, reduce the risk for heart disease and cancer and fight birth defects in newborns.
Ripe honeydews are about 7 or 8 inches long and can weigh anywhere from 4 to 8 pounds. When ripe, the honeydew is known to have the sweetest flesh of any melon.
While the exact region where the honeydew originated is not known, many people believe this fruit originally came from Persia. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back to 2400 B.C.E. show honeydew melons. These delicious fruits were cultivated by the Romans and were introduced into Europe by the conquering soldiers. The French royal court enjoyed honeydews in the 15th Century. All of the varieties of this melon which are currently in the marketplace were developed at the end of the 19th Century from a French version called the Antibes white melon.
Christopher Columbus brought the seeds of the honeydew to America and Spanish settlers cultivated this melon in California. Most of today's U.S. crop still comes from California although it can also be found in many of the southwestern states.
This fruit has all the nutritional highlights of its other family members, winter and summer squash. Honeydew is low in calories like summer squash, containing just 60 calories for a cup of diced fruit, and is about 90 percent water. Honeydew is high in vitamin C (like cantaloupe) and is also a very good source of potassium. Just one cup provides 56 percent of the daily recommended value of this important vitamin and 12 percent of the value recommended for potassium (equal to the potassium found in an average-sized banana, but with half the calories). This melon also contains a good supply of the B vitamin thiamine and several other B vitamins, including B6, pantothenic acid and niacin, as well as the mineral copper.
Because of its potassium and high water content, honeydew can be very helpful in helping maintain a healthy blood pressure level. The nutrients found in honeydew are also specifically helpful in maintaining healthy skin. Both vitamin C and copper are important for tissue repair and the production of collagen.
Research has shown that honeydews and other melons contain folate, a substance which is beneficial in lowering the incidence of spinal cord and brain defects. Folate is an important ingredient when cells are rapidly dividing, as is the case in fetal development.
Because melons are among those foods which are most commonly associated with pesticide residues on the skin, this fruit should be thoroughly washed before cutting into the skin. Melons lie on the ground while growing and can also collect other bacteria.
Selecting and Storing
This fruit is known as a "winter melon" because they ripen so late in the growing season and are at their peak during the late summer, fall and winter. Some growers attempt to pick the melons while they are still firm so they do not suffer damage during shipping. Melons picked before they are fully ripe will not grow sweeter off the vine.
One sign of a ripe melon is a clean break between the stem and the melon, rather than a cut in the stem. A jagged edge by the stem means the unripe melon was pulled from the vine before it was ready to be picked. The rind of a perfectly ripe honeydew will feel velvety soft to the touch and will look slightly wrinkled. Small "freckles" on the surface of the rind are indicative of sweetness. The rind will also have a slight give to the surface when fully ripe.
To bring out the richest flavor, honeydew should be served barely chilled. For its fragrant aroma to also be present, allow a previously refrigerated melon to stand at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
To add a pleasant contrast in flavors, squeeze a little lemon juice on the flesh, sprinkle with salt, or add some freshly-chopped mint.
Serving Ideas for Honeydews
Of course, honeydews can be added to any fruit salad. Other serving ideas include:
- Toss chunks of honeydew with watercress and lemon. For a Mexican taste, add lime, cilantro and sliced jicama.
- Honeydew halves can be used as edible bowls for cottage cheese or yogurt.
- Quartered honeydew slices look very attractive when placed around a platter holding tuna, shrimp or crab meat salad.
- Cut the honeydew into "rings," place on a plate and fill the opening with cottage cheese or fruit salad.
- A delicious frappe can be made by blending together a cup of plain yogurt, 3 cups of cold melon pieces, 2 tablespoons honey, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and 3 ice cubes. Process in a blender until smooth and pour into frosted wineglasses. A sprig of mint adds a festive garnish.
- Holford, P.(2004). The optimum nutrition bible. London : Piatkus
- Holford, P & Lawson, S. (2008). Optimum Nutrition Made Easy How to achieve optimum health. London : Piatkus
- Murray, M.T. et al.(2005). Encyclopedia of healing foods. London : Piatkus
- Yeager, S. & Prevention Health Books. (1998). The doctors book of food remedies : the newest discoveries in the power of food to cure and prevent health problems from aging and diabetes to ulcers and yeast infections. [Emmaus, Pa.] : Rodale
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