A melon is any of various plants of the family Cucurbitaceae with edible, fleshy fruit (e.g. gourds or cucurbits). The word "melon" can refer to either the plant or specifically to the fruit. Many different cultivars have been produced, particularly of muskmelons. Although the melon is a botanical fruit (specifically, a berry), some varieties may be considered culinary vegetables rather than fruits. The word melon derives from Latin melopepo, which is the latinization of the Greek μηλοπέπων (mēlopepon), meaning "melon", itself a compound of μῆλον (mēlon), "apple" + πέπων (pepōn), amongst others "a kind of gourd or melon".
Melons originated in Africa and southwest Asia, but they gradually began to appear in Europe toward the end of the Roman Empire. Melons were among the earliest plants to be domesticated in both the Old and New Worlds. Early European settlers in the New World are recorded as growing honeydew and casaba melons as early as the 1600s. A number of Native American tribes in New Mexico, including Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Navajo, Santo Domingo and San Felipe, maintain a tradition of growing their own characteristic melon cultivars, derived from melons originally introduced by the Spanish. Organizations like Native Seeds/SEARCH have made an effort to collect and preserve these and other heritage seeds.
There is also evidence that suggests that eating melons can lower the risk of cancer. USDA researchers discovered that melons have lycopene, an antioxidant found in a select group of fruits and vegetables.
Winter melon[note 1] (B. hispida) is the only member of the genus Benincasa. The mature winter melon is a culinary vegetable that is widely used in Asia and India. The immature melons are used as a culinary fruit (e.g., to make a distinctive fruit drink).
Egusi (C. lanatus) is a wild melon, similar in appearance to the watermelon. The flesh is inedible, but the seeds are a valuable food source in Africa. Other species that have the same culinary role, and that are also called egusi include Cucumeropsis mannii and Lagenaria siceraria.
Watermelon (C. lanatus) originated in Africa, where evidence indicates that it has been cultivated for over 4,000 years. It is a popular summer fruit in all parts of the world.
The bitter melon (M. charantia) is the only significant melon that is a member of the genus Momordica. It is a culinary vegetable, widely used in Asian, Indian and Caribbean cuisines. The flesh of the bitter melon has a characteristic bitter flavor. In contrast, the red, gelatinous coating of the mature seeds is sweet and is used in some Asian cuisines as a sweetener. Bitter melon has an unusually large number of common names in various regions.
Magness, J.R., G.M. Markle, C.C. Compton (1971). "Food and feed crops of the United States". IR Bulletin (New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station) 1 (828). OL14117370M. Interregional Research Project IR-4