WHAT IS A HONEYDEW?
This fruit, also known as a honey, musk or White Antibe melon, is a descendant of the gourd family. It’s oval in shape, grows up to about half a foot (20 cm) in length and can weigh up to 6 pounds (2.7 kg). While originally from West Africa, Christopher Columbus introduced these seeds to the States. Honeydew itself is an American name, in China it’s called Bailan and in some Spanish speaking countries it’s a “tuna melon.” They are one of the sweetest members of the melon family, beating out even watermelon! Honeydews usually needs about 3 weeks from harvest to ripen. They come in two types, green and orange (called a Temptation melon). The former though is what you’ll usually find in stores.
WHY ARE HONEYDEWS GOOD FOR YOU?
They are a great source for folate, potassium and vitamin C. Furthermore these melons are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium.
WHEN ARE HONEYDEWS IN SEASON?
In the States this California staple is a basically a summer crop (April through October). However these melons are available almost year-round in North America thanks to December through April imports from Mexico and Central America. They are called “winter melons” because they keep longer the more perishable fruits, not because of a winter harvest. South of the equator, they are a mid-January through mid-April harvest in Australia.
HOW SHOULD HONEYDEWS BE STORED?
The short story is at room temperature until they are ripe. Then wrap your melon in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 5 days. If cut make sure you use a zip lock bag as this melon easily absorbs odors. The long story is that this fruit does not mature once picked off the vine. That means if the farmer accidentally harvests a plant too soon (it happens, especially in industrial agriculture), your fruit will be immature. These kinds of fruits have a harder, flavorless character and will not ripen. However to add to the confusion, a honeydew melon that is picked at just the right time and is mature can still need time to ripen. The good news though is that honeydews are one of the few members of the melon family that continue to ripen after being picked off the vine.
So how do you know what to do?
- When shopping for a honeydew at the store, there are 2 quick ways to judge quality. The more circular (or the less oval) that it is and the heavier (denser) your melon is then other honeydews of the same size.
- When waiting at home for your honeydew to ripen, there are a few signs to let you know that its ready. A ripe melon will have almost no green tinge to the melon’s golden skin. Also they sound different (much like Parmesan Reggiano). As the fruit ripens, the flesh becomes softer and the seeds loosen up. If you drum it with your fingers and listen carefully, you can hear a difference. Lastly, the top (not the stem) of the fruit will soften a bit when it’s ripe. You can feel this if you press lightly on top.
WHAT IS THE PROPER WAY TO CUT A HONEYDEW MELON?
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IF BEES DIE, WHAT HAPPENS TO MY HONEYDEW MELONS?
So these plants have both male and female sex organs. However like with some married couples, they don’t come into contact with each other. That’s where bees come in. In order for the plant to bear fruit, a bee has to transport the pollen from the stamen (male part) to the stigma (female part) of the same or another plant’s. It takes around 9 bees to successfully pollinate one stigma to the point where it bears fruit. While other insect visitors can also pollinate plants, bees by far are the most successful.