Tuesday, November 13, 2012

All About Muskmelon

Muskmelons are the mother fruits of several other better-known cultivars. Indeed, several melon varieties stem from muskmelon, including honeydew, Crenshaw, galia and cantaloupe.

Muskmelon itself is incredibly polymorphic: Because of its exceptional variety, one’s image and flavor of muskmelon may not match another’s. Additionally, feral variants of muskmelon grown in the world make it even harder to pinpoint a uniform type of melon.

Origin of Muskmelon
Muskmelon’s origin is debatable. Some say Persia and Armenia, while the author of book, “Descriptors for Melon” states that the probable location is South Asia or Africa. If asked about the fruit’s roots, the answer is likely, “which strain of melon do you mean?” Muskmelon is an ancient fruit, with the roots of its family extending across the world.

2009 figures published by the USDA reveal that China accounts for 52 percent of the world’s melon production, growing 16.7 million tonnes annually. The second largest producer is Turkey with nearly 1.9 million, followed by Iran, the US, and Spain.

Availability of Muskmelon in India
Approximately 10 commercial varieties of muskmelon have importance in India. India’s muskmelon growing regions include Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Lucknow, Safeda, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. Farmers have cultivated several varieties that adapt to a wide range of climates.

Muskmelon’s main season occurs in the summer months from April to July, though a few off-season cultivars may appear throughout the year.

Where to find Musk Melon in India
Several shops sell musk melon when in season, though it’s difficult to gauge the fruit’s quality. Even the most aromatic, ripe melon may be insipid and lacking in flavor. Thus, melons might be easy to find, but the taste is unpredictable.

Expect a variety of melons with regards to size and exterior: Some have bumpy, green skin, while others are smooth and pale.  

Checking for Ripeness in Musk Melon
Scent is one of the most important determinants of ripeness, particularly for a fruit that derives its name—musk melon—from its hallmark fragrance. As a saying goes, if one can’t smell the melon, they can’t taste it, either. Hold the melon and smell near the green, indented groove known as the “stem scar”: if aromatic, it’s a likely ripe. If choosing a refrigerated melon, the smell may not be apparent. Thus, use smell in tandem with the other indicators.

Use texture as a gauge—smooth-skinned melons should feel velvety instead of like porcelain. The stem indentation’s small circle should give slightly when pressed with the thumb.

The weight of the melon is another indicator, as a ripe fruit will feel heavy for its size.

Lastly, use the tap test: Hold the melon up to the ear and tap it gently. It should have a hollow, low-pitched thud that resonates slightly. An unripe melon has a short, higher pitch when tapped.

Avoid muskmelons with noticeable bruises or mold near the stem indentation. The skin should not have water marks, wrinkles, or be misshapen. Do not worry if one side of the melon appears more yellow or greener than the other, or if one side is tougher than the other—these are simply indicators of where the melon has rested on the ground, or where the sun has hit the melon. The taste should not be unduly affected by these discrepancies in color and texture.

Taste of Muskmelon
The diversity of muskmelon makes it difficult to describe a uniform profile. Some are sticky-sweet like honey, while others are only slightly sweeter than an unripe pear. Some are watery, pulpy and can be cut with a spoon; other melons require a steak knife due to its densely packed flesh. Many have notes of honeysuckle, grass, and the same earthiness as cucumber and watermelon. Muskmelons are creamier and less granular than a watermelon, but the texture is otherwise similar.

All melons, however, possess a distinct musky taste resembling a cucumber. No melon could be described as particularly pungent or acidic like citrus.

Nutritional Value of Muskmelon
According to the USDA nutrient database, 100g of edible cantaloupe contains the following values:

8.8g Carbs
.9g Fiber (4% RDI)
.8g Protein (2% RDI)
3383IU Vitamin A (68% RDI)
36.7g Vitamin C (61% RDI)
2.5mcg Vitamin K (3% RDI)
Thiamin (3% RDI)
.7mg Niacin (4% RDI)
.1mg Vitamin B6 (4% RDI)
21mcg Folate (5% RDI)
12mg Magnesium (3% RDI)
267mg Potassium (8% RDI)

Muskmelons also have a number of lesser-known nutrients stemming from its carotenoids, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Other phytonutrients in muskmelon are well-known anti-inflammatory agents, cucurbitacin B and cucurbitacin E.

Health Benefits of Muskmelon
Muskmelon is low in calories and high in skin-boosting, eye-strengthening Vitamin A. The fruit ranks low on the glycemic index while offering a good ratio of being nutritious and filling.

In Ayurveda, muskmelons have a cool energy best for all doshas. The fruits help remedy constipation, bladder infections, ulcers, fatigue, colitis, and stabilize blood pressure. Since the Ming Dynasty, Chinese medicine practitioners prescribe muskmelon for constipation, in addition to abdominal distention.

--A study published in a 2012 edition of the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” affirms the muskmelon’s use in remedying stomach ailments based on its gastrointestinal prokinetic effect in the intestines.
--Muskmelons and watermelon contain citrulline, a compound loaded with health benefits. According to the work conducted by a chemist at the Agricultural Research Service, this compound may hold the key to curing sickle cell related deficiencies due to its ability to remove nitrogen from the blood and urine.
--A 2013 study published in Amino Acids found that citrulline had the ability to preserve muscle function during dietary restriction.
--According to a 2010 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, cucurbitacins exert anticancerous effects when tested on three human breast cancer cell lines.
--A 2013 study published in Cancer Letters indicates that muskmelon’s cucurbitacins demonstrate therapeutic potential against non-small-cell lung cancer.
--Another 2012 study published in Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that cucurbitacin E induced apoptosis in human bladder cancer cells. A 2013 study published in Tumor Biology revealed the same benefits when tested against human endometrial and ovarian cancer cells.

How to Open/Cut:
If eating out of hand, then simply cut the fruit in half, remove the seeds, and eat the flesh with a spoon.

If cutting the fruit into pieces, two methods exist. With either choice, be sure to wash and scrub the fruit thoroughly with a vegetable brush beforehand: Even though the skin will be removed, melons may be contaminated with the soil’s bacteria from the time it spend resting on the ground. Only wash the fruit before use. Here’s a video on both techniques:

Method one: Cut the fruit into halves and scoop out the seeds. Next, slice into quarters, then eights. The end result should be eight long wedges of fruit. Then, slice away the skin from each wedge. Cut into desired sized pieces.

The second method is similar to cutting a pineapple: lop off part of the top and bottom, sit upright, and then shave away the peel. Repeat the process outlined above by cut the fruit in half, removing the skins, and then cutting into wedges.

Melons will not get sweeter once picked from the vine, but they will get tenderer and juicier. To improve its texture and aroma, leave the melon room temperature for a few days.

Place ripe melons in the refrigerator, ideally in the section with the highest humidity. The fruit will keep for a week or two, depending on its initial stage of ripeness.

Always refrigerate cut melon. Any bacteria transferred from the fruit’s skin to the pulp will proliferate at room temperature.   

Melon balls or chunks can be frozen, but be sure to consume the fruit in its frozen state as well. Thawed melon has a mushy, unappetizing texture.

Musk Melon Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Eat muskmelon slices mixed with sugar and cardamom, as is common in India.
--Puree with melon with kiwi, nut milk, and orange juice, and then freeze into a popsicle.
--Make a simple fruit salad by combining muskmelon, watermelon, papaya, pineapple and kiwi. Add herbs such as mint, dill, or basil.
--Blend frozen pieces of muskmelon with nut milk to make a chiller. This fruit blends well with any dairy-like product.
--Blend into a pulp and pour into ice cube trays. Add the frozen chunks to fruit cocktails.
--Make a cold melon soup by blending melon with cucumber, vinegar, olive oil, salt, ginger, garlic, and fresh herbs.
--Add to salsa recipes
--Make a subtle melon ice cream from honeydew and add earthy flavors such as cinnamon or cardamom
--It is possible to make a preserve from melon, but it should be combined with a fruit high in pectin, such as peach. Use peach and melon in even ratios, such as 2 cups of peaches to every 2 cups of melon.

--Because muskmelons are rarely sugary sweet, they work beautifully with savory flavors. Make a salad and include balls of fruit with cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese or feta (or an adequate tofu substitute), and herbs.

Chilled melon soup from

Note: the book, “Tibetan Ayurveda: Health Secrets from the Roof of the World,” suggests eating melon by itself to avoid improper digestion. Those who practice food combining in the raw food community also adhere to the principle of eating melons separately. This is because melons are some of the fastest digesting foods—if eaten with slower digesting foods such as legumes and fibrous fruits, digestive problems like cramps and gas may occur.

Flavor Complements:
Watermelon, cucumber, papaya, kiwi, peach, nectarine, apricot, fig, feijoa, guava, giant granadilla, passion fruit

Herbs, spices, and oil: Nutmilk, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, cardamom, cashew, coconut milk, cumin, salt, black pepper, club soda, mint, dill, basil, balsamic vinegar

Random Facts:
Muskmelon’s taste is highly dependent its weather growing conditions: Blame a dull-tasting musk melon on rainy, unseasonably cold weather.

Scientific Name:
Cucumis melo

Other Names:

Related Fruits:



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