The melon is the richest and most highly flavoured of all the fleshy fruit. It is often said to be a native of the central part of Asia, and to have been first brought into Europe from Persia; but the date of its first culture is so remote, that there is no certain knowledge on the subject. Pliny reveals that they were grown by the Romans. They were produced for the Emperor using stones all forcing houses. The melon has been cultivated in England since the middle of early 16th century and perhaps earlier. In France and in England melons are grown as an article of luxury. In some parts of the East the fruit is used as a chief necessity of life.
Melons afford a very agreeable liquor. When its fruit is nearly ripe, a hole is pierced into the pulp; this is then stopped with wax, and the melon left upon the stalk. Within a few days the pulp is converted into a fine liquor. Although the melon is a very delicious fruit, it is not one of the most wholesome; especially in cold climates, where, if eaten in considerable quantity, it is apt to upset the stomach unless corrected by warm and stimulating ingredients. The same remark may be applied to the cucumber.
Small melons are usually more highly flavoured than large ones. In general, however, the fruit is chosen as much for show as for use, and thus the large ones are often preferred. Indeed, in almost all the cultivated fruit and vegetables, quality is liable to be sacrificed for appearance. In the markets the articles are bought by the judgment of the eyes, and not by that of the palate.
Of the melon there are many varieties, and the number is constantly increasing. 71 are listed in fruit catalogue of the horticultural society. The Cantaloupe is one of the best. It obtained its name from a seat belonging to the Pope, not far from Rome, where it was probably first cultivated in Europe. It is of a medium size, nearly round, and remarkably rough and irregular in the surface.
The article above was taken from "A Description and History of Vegetable Substances used in the Arts and in Domestic Economy published by Charles Knight, London, 1829.
Nigel Deacon, Diversity website.
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