Melon: properties, benefits and the best recipes

Melon: properties, benefits and the best recipes

The melon is one of those fruits that symbolize summer, even if some varieties are found in the middle of winter. It is thirst-quenching, remineralizing and rich in fibre. Its precious nutrients make it an ideal fruit for the warmer season, rich as it is in properties and health benefits.

There are different types of melon, from white to yellow, cantaloupe, netted or winter melon.

The calories of the melon are quite low, 34 Kcal per 100 g. Thanks to the low caloric intake, it is particularly suitable for those who follow a diet: its high satiating power is a valid ally for those who want to lose weight without lacking a good supply of water, minerals and vitamins.

What is melon

The melon (Cucumis melo) is a plant that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. Even the fruit, with a yellow or netted skin, with a whitish or orange-tinged pulp, has the same name. There are different varieties of melon, some summer and some winter, which means that it is a fruit present on market stalls almost all year round.

It is in Asia, especially in China, that there are the world’s largest melon producers, even if by now it is a widespread cultivation in many other countries of the world.

However, the melon is a plant that requires specific climatic, soil and humidity conditions. This means that the best melons can only be grown in countries with a warm climate, in deep, well-drained soils with little humidity. Precisely because of the particular climatic needs, melons are mainly grown in greenhouses.

Until the end of the 1800s, its consumption was not widespread, as it was suspected that it could be poisonous. It is possible that some melons have given digestive problems due to their perishability. An old belief advised eating them at the beginning of the meal or in combination with salty foods (such as ham) to avoid negative effects. From this probably derives the traditional summer dish ham and melon still in vogue today.

Types and varieties of melons

There are several varieties of melon, with similar taste and consistency, but with different characteristics, including nutritional, shape and color. Among the most common are:

  • Cantaloupe melon (orange melon).
  • Netted melon (white melon).
  • Winter melon (winter melon).

The best known and most appreciated melons, the sweet and typically summer ones, in turn are divided into reticulated melons (or netted, with white or yellowish pulp), winter melons (with white or pinkish pulp and smooth skin) and cantaloupe melons (with pericarp smooth and typically orange flesh).

Among the varieties, yellow melons also stand out, with a typically yellowish pulp and a smooth white pericarp.

Winter melon

The winter melon, as the name suggests, is typical of the colder months, and has a smooth and yellow pericarp, while the pulp is white and fleshy. What distinguishes it from summer melons, apart from the color, is also the flavour. In fact, winter melon has a more delicate but less sweet taste, and keeps much longer.

From the moment of collection (August-September) they can be kept for many months until winter (December or January). The adjective “winter”, therefore, does not refer to the time of harvesting, but to that of consumption. The ideal period to taste this type of melon is between September and November.

Therefore, not all winter melons are the same, as there are different varieties. Among the most characteristic ones are:

  • Giant of Naples: large with thin green skin and very sweet white pulp.
  • Melone Morettino: oval, with dark green skin and greenish pulp tending towards white in the centre.
  • Malta melon: from the peculiar green chromatic streak of the pulp, which is juicy and sweet.
  • Cartucciaro: green, rough and round.
  • Purceddu: yellow, smooth and rather elongated.

Cantaloupe melon

It owes its name to the homonymous town in Lazio, Cantalupo, in the province of Rieti, where cultivation was introduced in the 15th century by missionaries from Asia. Melons in this group are almost perfectly spherical or slightly elongated. The skin is smooth or slightly warty, green-grey in colour, with marked longitudinal furrows. The pulp has an orange or salmon color and is very fragrant.

Among the cantaloupe melons are:

  • Cantaloupe Common with red pulp and rich in juice.
  • Cantaloupe Prescott, early variety with wide ribs, strongly scented and suitable for hors d’oeuvres.
  • Cantaloupe from Charentais (or Francesino), with orange pulp, very fragrant.

Netted melon

The fruits are oval or rounded, with a thickly reticulated skin. The ribs are often missing or not very marked while the pulp is yellow or orange and very fragrant.

It is also called American melon and there are numerous varieties. The most common are: the Palatino, Merlin, Stromboli, Tazio, Melone Ananasso, etc.

Melon: nutritional properties

The melon is made up of about 90% water and for this reason it is a thirst-quenching fruit. It is low in calories and has a consistent fiber content which gives it a high satiating power.

However, its composition varies between summer and winter varieties.

It is an excellent source of mineral salts, above all due to the important content of potassium, zinc, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, which contribute to making it a refreshing and regenerating fruit. Among the vitamins, the high content of vitamin C stands out, lower in the winter variety, and a significant presence of folate and B vitamins.

The summer varieties are very rich in beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, an antioxidant carotenoid also responsible for the production of melanin, a skin protective substance which helps us to tan more intensely in summer.

Summer melon: nutritional values ​​per 100 g

Sodium (mg)8
Phosphorus (mg)13
Ferro (mg)0.3
Potassium (mg)333
Calcium (mg)19
Magnesio (mg)11
Zolfo (mg)12
Iodine (and)4
Tiamina (mg)0.05
Riboflavin (mg)0.04
Niacin (mg)0.60
Vitamin C (mg)32
Vitamin B6 (mg)0.11
Folate (µg)5
Vitamin E (mg)0.10
Vitamin A (µg)189
Vitamin K (µg)2.50

Source: Food Composition Database for Epidemiological Studies in America and CREA Research Center for Food and Nutrition

Summer melon: chemical composition per 100 g

Water (g)90.1
Energy (kcal)34
Protein (g)0.8
Lipids (g)0.2
Cholesterol (mg)0
Available carbohydrates (g)7.4
Total fiber0.7

Source: Food Composition Database for Epidemiological Studies in America and CREA Research Center for Food and Nutrition

Health benefits

The melon is a really good and healthy fruit, fresh and refreshing, it is also ideal for the diet. It has few calories, lots of water, useful for counteracting water retention, and perfect for the summer. Its nutritional profile is very respectable, so its benefits for the body are also remarkable. Here are some.


Summer melon varieties have an important characteristic: the abundance of beta-carotene, or provitamin A. This, together with vitamin C and other antioxidant compounds (in particular alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, but also flavonoids such as luteolin), they constitute a kit capable of counteracting the oxidative stress produced by free radicals partly produced by our body, partly assumed with food.

Antioxidants therefore also mitigate the negative impact of physiological and health-promoting mechanisms such as inflammation: if this process continues over time, however, it can become more harmful than useful.

Strengthens the immune defences

In synergy with the other carotenoids and antioxidants, beta-carotene strengthens the immune system and plays a protective role for many biological functions, thus managing to prevent and fight many pathologies and dysfunctions.

In particular, it seems to have the ability to increase resistance against infections and intervenes in the processes of toxin disposal by the liver. Carotenoids such as vitamin A stimulate the production of T lymphocytes, white blood cells that act as scavengers to defend the body.

Helps the circulatory system and heart

The anti-inflammatory activity of cucurbitacins is also useful for pathologies caused by high levels of inflammation of the cardiovascular system.

This action is associated with potassium, which produces beneficial effects on circulation and blood pressure. Then there is the action exerted by adenosine, a nucleotide which is used in pharmacological preparations for the treatment of a series of cardiovascular problems, such as stroke, angina pectoris, tachycardia and heart attack.

Finally, the combination of vitamin C and E can slow down atherosclerotic progression in hypercholesterolemic people.

A moderate content of vitamin K also favors the blood coagulation function.

Perfect for eyesight, skin and cartilage

Beta-carotene also intervenes in the visual process by protecting the retina and increasing vision in low light conditions. Other carotenoids, such as zeaxanthin, assist the function of beta-carotene, nourishing the retinal tissue of the eye and providing protection from UV rays. Vitamin A also plays a preventive role against macular degeneration, a typical senile pathology.

Furthermore, beta-carotene is essential in the formation and maintenance of skin, cartilaginous tissues and mucous membranes, including those of the lungs, mouth and nose. Promotes the formation of a tan, protecting the epidermis from the sun’s rays.

It is no coincidence that the melon pulp is very useful for the preparation of rehydrating and restructuring masks for the skin of the face, preventing dryness and roughness.