Melons are said to originate from Africa and the Middle East, and have gradually spread to Europe and other regions of the world. Though considered to be fruits, they are often used as vegetables.   World output of melon was at 31 million tons in 2009 with China contributing about 51% of total output. This puts them on top as the leading producers of melon. Other top producing countries include Turkey, Spain, United States and Iran. The United States is the third largest producers of melons with per person consumption of 26.1 pounds and more than 261, 900 metric tons (MT) exported in 2010.  For export, sales and haulage season starts from April through September, and the hybrid variety is usually highly demanded than other varieties.


                                                                       Packaged melons ready for export


Melons grow well in sunny areas with fertile, properly drained soils, and can be either seeded directly or transplanted. Melons are usually susceptible to root disturbance and there can be retarded growth if transplants are not well managed. They grow best on sandy loam soils with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0.  Soils with a pH level less than 6.0 will produce fewer perfect plants and yellowed foliage leaves.     Lighter sandy soils and heavy clayed soils can be made to suit melon planting purpose by adding organic matter, and addition of compost or manure can be very beneficial for vine crops and helps improve soil structure.  Melons have their insects and diseases that affect them.  One of the most common is squash bugs which feed on foliage and can damage young plants. Similarly, squash vine borers can destroy plants as they pierce holes through the vines.

There are thousands of different varieties of melons which range in sizes, shapes and colors. However, the most common varieties are the honeydew, casaba melons, watermelon and the cantaloupe melons. The Cantaloupe (Muskmelon) is a fruit with khaki netted colored skin and an orange flesh. It gives the most beta-carotene in the whole of the melon family. They are usually available throughout the season and their peak season is between June to August. Honey dew melons are the sweetest of all melons with an average weight of about 5 pounds to 6 pounds. When ripe, they have a pale green flesh and a creamy yellow back. Though they are equally available throughout the year, their best growing period is from June to October. The Casaba melons are large and pale yellow when ripe. They have white back and usually do not have aroma. The melon is available in the market from July through December. Other varieties of melon include the Crenshaw melon, Persian melon and Santa clause melon.

World consumption of melon has increased considerably for a variety of reasons, including improved year round availability, improved varieties, and health consciousness of consumers. When eaten raw (especially cantaloupes and water melon), they are a good source of Vitamin A, folate and potassium. Apart from their consumption when fresh, melon seeds can also be dried, while some other varieties are cooked, or cultivated for their seeds to produce melon oil.


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