Melons, squashes, and cucumbers are members
of the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd family; they all grow on vines.
Except for water melons, all melons resemble winter squashes in
structure, they have a thick flesh with a central seed filled
cavity. Water melon bears more resemblance to a cucumber, with
its seeds dispersed in a radial pattern throughout its flesh.
The principal difference between melons and squashes is the way
they are used.
While squashes are treated as vegetables, melons are considered
fruits, sweet and juicy.
Melons rank somewhere between summer and winter
squashes in terms of nutritiousness. They resemble summer squashes
in their high water content and low calorie count, but approach
winter squashes in their nutrient value. Melons are a good source
of potassium and vitamin C, and, like pumpkin or butternut squash
the orange fleshed varieties have exceptional amounts of beta
You can improve the eating quality of firm, uncut melons by leaving
them at room temperature for two to four days; the fruit will
not become sweeter, but it will turn softer and juicier. If during
that time the fruit has not reached its peak, it was picked immature
and will not be worth eating. Once ripened (or cut), melons should
be refrigerated and used within about two days. Enclose them in
plastic bags to protect other produce in the refrigerator from
the ethylene gas that the melons give off. Ripe melons are also
very fragrant, and the aroma of a cut melon can penetrate other
An uncut watermelon can, if necessary, be stored
at room temperature for up to a week, but in summer, when room
temperatures can be quite high, the fruit should be refrigerated
. It takes eight to 12 hours to chill a whole water melon thoroughly.
Cut water melon should be tightly wrapped in plastic and refrigerated
for no more than four days.
With the exception of watermelon, the preparation is the same
for all melons. Simply cut the melon open and remove the seeds
and strings. It can be served in many attractive ways: cut into
halves, quarters, wedges or cubes; or the flesh can be scooped
out with a melon baller. For the simplest, least messy way to
eat it, halve the watermelon lengthwise and seed it, then cut
it crosswise into wedges. Slide a knife between the rind and flesh
to remove the rind; leave the wedges whole or cut each one into
For melon rings, cut melons into thick crosswise
slices, scrape out the seeds, and remove the rind, if desired.
Use a large, heavy knife to cut a whole watermelon
into thick slices or wedges, or else remove the flesh with a melon
baller. Seed melon chunks or balls with the tip of a knife.