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Cucumis melo (Muskmelon, including wintermelon and spanspek)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid I > Order: Cucurbitales > Family: Cucurbitaceae > Genus: Cucumis

Cucumis melo (Muskmelon, including wintermelon and spanspek)
Cucumis melo (Muskmelon, including wintermelon and spanspek)

Cucumis melo at parkhome offices, Chitengo Camp, Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. [photos Bart Wursten , Flora of Mozambique]

Canteloupe melon, a variety of Cucumis melo, called Spanspek in South Africa. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ]

Close-up of the rind of a canteloupe melon. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ] Winter melon, also called honeydew melon, another variety of Cucumis melo. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ]

The wild Muskmelon has an indigenous distribution over the desert and savanna regions of Africa, Arabia, southwestern Asia and Australia, including in southern Africa, and was domesticated in Africa and southwestern Asia more than 4000 years ago. It now comes in a range of forms including those with netted rinds (e.g. spanspek / cantaloup) and those with smooth rinds (e.g. wintermelon). Melons are usually eaten fresh as an hors d'oeuvre at the beginning of the meal or as a dessert fruit at the end of the meal.

Wild populations of Cucumis melo occur in desert and savanna regions of Africa, Arabia, southwestern Asia and Australia. Within southern Africa, it occurs in the South African provinces of Limpopo, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. It is thought to have been domesticated in Africa and southwestern Asia at least since 2000 BC. It was introduced to the Americas by Columbus and later Spanish explorers and, as with Watermelon, this species was extremely popular with North American Indians and seeds were dispersed quickly from tribe to tribe. A wide range of cultivars have been produced.

There are the unsweet varieties called chate Melons that are consumed like cucumbers, but which are rarely grown today. The sweet varieties include those with netted rinds (e.g. cantaloups / spanspek and persians) and those with smooth rinds (e.g. casabas, honeydews and winter melons). Melons are usually eaten fresh as an hors d'oeuvre at the beginning of the meal or as a dessert fruit at the end of the meal.

Links

References

  • Sauer, J.D. 1993. Historical geography of crop plants - a select roster. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

  • van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. Food Plants of the World - Identification, Culinary Uses and Nutritional Value. Briza, Pretoria.

  • Zohary, D. & Hopf, M. 1993. Domestication of plants in the old World - The origin and spread of cultivated plants in West Asia, Europe, and the Nile Valley. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Text by Hamish Robertson


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