The precise origin of honeydew melon (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 in West Africa over 4,000 years ago, while Egyptian tombs mentioning the melon date back to 2,400 B.C. Columbus brought honeydew seeds to America and Spanish explorers cultivated them in California.
A member of the cucurbit or gourd family, honeydew is related to squash, cucumbers, cantaloupes, and other melons. Sometimes known as Temptation Melons, a ripe honeydew is the sweetest type of melon. This flavor may explain its rising popularity with per capita consumption increasing since the 1960s.
Types & Varieties
Honeydew plants are similar to cantaloupe, but with more lobing on the leaves. The melons themselves are clearly quite different—honeydews 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. There are two types of honeydew melon: green-fleshed or orange-fleshed. Common varieties include Dewlightful, Earlidew, Honey Dew Green Flesh, Jade Delight, New Moon, Summer Dew, and TAM Dew.
Honeydews prefer semiarid regions for growth and tend to do poorly in humid conditions. Planting can be direct-seed or transplant. Sandy, light soils high in organic matter are best. Ideal soil temperature for germination ranges from 70 to 90°F. Direct-seed honeydew should be planted about a half-inch deep in either rows or hills.
Mulching will help maintain moisture, crucial until pollination. Vines may trail across the ground or climb and will produce both male and female flowers. Each vine typically yields 3 to 4 melons. Pollination by bees is required for proper fruit set.
Honeydew do not slip from the vine and must be harvested by maturity, not size. Ripe melons have a creamy yellow skin.
Cooling after harvest is recommended, commonly forced air.
Postharvest treatment typically includes ethylene for 18 to 24 hours to ripen mature melons more uniformly.