Melons: history and origins
The melon is probably native to Africa, even though some researchers think that it is native to Asia, and more precisely from the ancient Persia.
This fruit and vegetable product began to be exported in the Mediterranean basin by the Egyptian, starting from the V century b. C. and arrived in Italy in the Christian period of the I century, as mentioned in the book “Naturalis Historia” written by Pliny.
The melon spread quickly and became particularly appreciated in the Roman Empire, even though, in the past it was consumed as a vegetable and not as a fruit , as we do today (for example with pepper and salt and eaten in salads).
In the past the melon was considered a symbol of fertility, probably because of the great quantity of seeds that it contains. Furthermore it is curious that is was linked to the concept of foolish (in Italian a foolish person was called “mellone” and foolishness “mellonaggine”): according to the Italian linguist, writer and orientalist Angelo de Gubernatis, these beliefs were due to the great fertility and the uncontrolled production of this plant, that in the past was considered opposed to smartness.
Alexandre Dumas, French writer an dramatist of the XVII century, was a great consumer of this fruit and vegetable product and he made an agreement with the library of its town, asking for an exchange among its works (about 400 volumes) and a life annuity consisting in 12 melons each year, thing that in fact happened until his death.
Thus, the melon was a largely consumed and appreciated fruit and vegetable product, even though there were many people, above all doctors, who said that melons were harmful, and said that this fresh fruit was responsible even for the death of four emperors and two pontiffs.
The melon was said to be harmful also by the Italian scientist Castore Durante (1529-1590), who wrote about melons in 1585 its work (Herbario nuovo), advising against the consumption of melons for people who suffered from disorders of the digestive system and diabetics.
In Italy, and more precisely in Trieste, starting from 1844 the Saint Justus column ends with a stone representing a melon above which there is a halberd: these symbols are rooted in the Italian culture because the melon is usually formed by 13 sections, each representing a family of the nobility of Trieste, while the halberd, according to the traditions, seems that had fallen down from the sky on the day of the martyrdom of Saint Sergio, patron saint of Trieste.
Melons are, therefore, a type of fresh fruit present on the world fruit and vegetable market since ever, apart from being a very appreciated fresh fruit by the past and the modern consumer.
In the world fruit and vegetable sector, countless varieties of different melons are produced: nowadays, there are many companies that produce melons, certified companies for the production of melons, producers of melons, companies that produce organic melons, companies that deal with the trade of melons, retailers of melons, importers of melons, exporters of melons and wholesalers of melons: such a range of varieties has increased competition among world countries (EU-members and not) for the production of melons and the trade of melons.