Melons - history, production, trade
The melon, whose scientific name is Cucumis melo, is a climbing plant of the family Cucubitaceae. The word melon indicates both the fruit and the plant that is largely cultivated as its fruits are edible, sweet and flavoured.
Melons can be eaten raw, both as an appetizer and as a dessert, and cooked, in jams of fruits: this type of fruit and vegetable product is considered ripe and of a good quality if it is flavoured.
The melon is a summer fruit that can be ovoid or roundish according to the varieties cultivated: it is rich in water, sugars and fibres that have nutritional and refreshing properties. This fresh fruit brings energy without being heavy: for this reason and for its beautiful radiant colour, the melon is one of the fruits that are the symbol of summer.
Furthermore, the melon is particularly suitable in slimming diets, as it is low in calories.
Melons are also slightly laxative, because of the fibres contained and are therefore useful to fight the sedentary life and to help the more lazy intestines; moreover, the melon is slightly diuretic and is suitable for people who suffer from anaemia, thanks to its great content of iron.
Apart from the features already mentioned, the melon is also an excellent tonic for the circulation: in fact, with only half a melon high blood pressure can be controlled. This is due to the high percentage of mineral salts such as iron, phosphorus, sodium and calcium, but mainly potassium that permit to control more than other mineral salts blood pressure as well as to recreate the water supply lost with sweating.
The consumption of half a melon or a small whole melon each day can thus help to keep fluid the blood and to avoid the formation of grumes.
The melon is also rich in vitamin A, from which derives the typical orange colour of the flesh (the colour is due to the presence of the pigments carotenoids, very important for the health of eyes), and in vitamin C, very important for the nutrition of the skin that in summer is more than ever exposed to temperature stress and to the sunlight.
However, this fruit and vegetable product is not suitable for diabetics and for people suffering from gastritis, as it is very rich in sugars.
The melon can be consumed also by people suffering from celiac disease as it does not contain gluten (information received by the AIC - Associazione Italiana Celiachia).
Another property of melons is found in their flesh that is very hydrating: in fact, if sliced, they can be used as a face mask with a nutritional and refreshing effect after sunbathing. The flesh of melons, in fact, absorbs the warmth of the skin recreating its right degree of hydration.
It is necessary to know only few things to buy a good melon: it must be compact when held in one’s hand, with the typical smell of ethylene coming from the front; in general the ends must be soft but not too much and the petiole must be bright green. Knocking on the surface of the melon, it must not emit any sound.
A melon is considered sweet when its content of sugar is around 13%, while when the content of sugar is lower than 11% the fruit is not considered of a good quality. There are melons whose content of sugar can reach up to 18%, even though in this case, such a content of sugar could disguise the complex taste that makes the melon one of the most appreciated fruits in the world.
In order to permit to the fruits to reach the ideal quantity of sugars, it is necessary to harvest them at the right moment: a fruit harvested too early or too late, in fact, will not reach the right level of sugars and thus the ideal taste, or instead will absorb too much sugars.
It is recommend not to store melon in the refrigerator, because the other food can absorb their flavour. On the contrary, it is far better to store this fruit and vegetable product in a cool and dry place: however, if you cannot avoid to store it in the refrigerator, it would be better to envelop the melon in a paper bag for food and then put it in a plastic bag, paying attention that the temperature of the refrigerator never goes below 5°C. It is recommended to take away the melon from the refrigerator at least one hour before consumption.
The melon could be difficult to digest because of its high content of water (about the 90%); however it is enough to avoid drinking too much while eating the melon, to avoid an excessive dilution of the gastric juices.
The melon can be consumed fresh, after taking away the skin, but it can be used also in the preparation of appetizers, first courses, fruit salads, shakes, desserts and ice cream. Among the most widespread dished, the most popular is probably the Italian dish “Prosciutto e melone” (Ham and Melon) that many people appreciate in Summer for its freshness.
Melons have become more and more popular: 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.