The honeydew melon, also called the honey dew melon, is part of the Inodorus variety of melon (Cucumis melo) that also includes casaba and Santa Claus melons. These melons are all categorized as winter melons because they mature later in the summer compared to melons like cantaloupe. The honeydew melon was originally grown in southern France and was called the “White Antibes” melon. It was first shipped to the United States around 1900 and was renamed the honeydew melon because of its honey-like fragrance and flavor. Today the honeydew melon is the third most popular melon in the United States behind watermelon and cantaloupe. Current popular cultivars of honeydew include 'Passport', 'Sweet Dream', and 'Venus'.
Honeydew melon plants are long vines that grow on the ground and look almost identical to cantaloupe plants. The melons are planted during the early summer months and take about two to three months to produce ripe fruit. Flowers bloom on the vine one to two months after planting and the melons take about a month after that to fully mature. It can be difficult to determine when the melons are ripe because they do not separate from the vine like other melons. Most growers instead look for the melon rind to change color from green to cream-yellow.
The actual melons are round and about eight inches in diameter, slightly larger than a cantaloupe. They have a completely smooth rind that is creamy yellow in color when ripe. Inside is the edible pericarp flesh that is traditionally light-green and juicier and sweeter than cantaloupe flesh. The flesh has a characteristic floral and honey flavor. Like most other melons, the middle of a honeydew melon is hollow and filled with hundreds of seeds and fibrous flesh.
Honeydew melons are in season during the later months in summer from July to October and should be available in most supermarkets. When choosing a ripe melon, look at the rind. Ripe melons should have a white or cream colored rind that often has a sticky or velvety texture. The fruit should also yield a bit when pressed at the blossom end and should have a pleasant, honey-like fragrance. Heavier melons that weigh five pounds or more are said to have the best flavor.
Honeydews are one of the few melons that can be ripened if left out at room temperature for a few days. They also have a longer shelf life than other melons and can be stored in the fridge for up to a month. Honeydew melons are delicious eaten off the rind or in fruit salads. They also make tasty fruit soups and drinks.