The precise origin of honeydew melons (C. melo var. inodorous) is unclear. While other types of melon are thought to have originated in Central America, honeydew seems to have originated farther east with roots as far as West Africa over 4,000 years ago. Egyptian tombs with instructions on the melon’s use dating back to 2,400 B.C. suggest the fruit was common across the African continent. Columbus brought honeydew seeds to America and Spanish explorers cultivated them in California.
A member of the cucurbit or gourd family, honeydew are related to squash, cucumber, cantaloupe, and other melons. Sometimes known as Temptation Melons, a ripe honeydew is the sweetest type of melon. This flavor may explain the rising popularity of honeydew with per capita consumption increasing every decade since the 1960s.
Honeydew plants are similar to cantaloupe, but with more lobing on the leaves. The melons themselves, however, are clearly different—honeydew are slightly oval to round with a smooth, tough skin that begins very light green with soft hairs and matures to a smooth rich yellow as it ripens. Fruit flesh is light green or sometimes orange, dense, and juicy.
References: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Cornell University, University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Illinois Extension, Western Growers Association.
TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS
There are two types of honeydew melon: green-fleshed or orange-fleshed. Common varieties include Earlidew, Honeybrew, Honey Dew Green Flesh, and TAM Dew.
References: Oregon State University Department of Horticulture, University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
PESTS & DISEASE
Honeydew are sensitive to chilling injury, though susceptibility decreases as the fruit matures and ripens. Diseases that affect honeydew include powdery mildew, bacterial wilt, fusarium wilt, fungal leaf spot, cucumber mosaic virus, and scab.
Pests of concern include striped or spotted cucumber beetles, aphids, squash vine borer, squash bugs, and flea beetles.
References: Cornell University, UC Davis Postharvest Technology website.