Friday, 22 June 2007

Cucumis melo

It’s not too difficult to grow melons in England, though only, I imagine, under glass. But a travel book of 1607 described them as growing here freely, and Andrew Marvell, in a well-known poem written about fifty years later also refers to melons. These must have been in the open, for the hot-bed was a recent invention in 1600, and glass-houses must have been a great rarity. Is it possible that our climate was warmer four hundred years ago, or were those so-called melons actually pumpkins?

The history, varieties and nomenclature or the fruit are perplexing. All forms of the species hybridise readily with each other, or indeed with other family members; the puritanical French have traditionally taken care to avoid ‘incestuous intercourse’ by keeping melons and cucumbers well apart.

To us, giving a melon as an expensive gift would be considered a little eccentric. Not so in Japan; the price shown here is equivalent to about $50.

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