A Korean melon is usually found in Asian food stores, and even there it can be somewhat scarce unless it has been grown locally. Once picked, the Korean melon is not a terribly good keeper, certainly not a fruit to be transported long distances by ship or rail. If not grown locally, chances are the cost of airplane fuel has been folded into the price, but as any Korean melon fancier will tell you, it's worth the cost.
Characteristics - The Korean melon is a bit on the smallish size, about papaya-sized. It is oblong in shape, rather than round, and has deep ridges, not unlike those found on an acorn squash or better yet, a pumpkin. The color of the melon is yellow, with white ridges, and the flesh in the interior varies from white to white with a peach-colored tinge. While the seed cavity is rather large, there is still plenty of flesh to eat, and like most melons, the Korean melon is heavier than it looks. The seeds by the way are edible, and taste like one would think melon seeds should taste. They have a distinctive melon flavor. The flesh is quite firm and very juicy, which many say tastes not too much different from cantaloupe.
One of the challenges in marketing the Korean melon is it cannot be picked until it is ripe. Melons in general will not ripen once they have been picked. Once picked, the Korean melon will keep at room temperature for about 5 days maximum, and a few days longer if sliced or cubed and place in the refrigerator.
Selecting a good Korean melon is much like selecting any melon. You can thump on it (lightly, it bruises easily), listening for a hollow sound, but the nose test is best. A ripe melon, no matter what the variety, usually smells like a distinctive fragrance, where as one that is not ripe does not. A hollow sound and a pleasant fragrance tells you you've found a melon worth taking home.
A Nutritious Melon - Like most melons the Korean melon is cholesterol free and low in calories and fat. Unlike some other melons, it is quite low in sodium and makes a nice dish for those with high blood pressure problems. The Korean melon is rich in calcium, vitamin C, and is an excellent source of fiber. One serving, a cupful, contains just under 50 calories. This melon, sliced, cubed, or shaped into melon balls, is excellent for a fruit platter or in a salad. An overripe melon can still be used as a very flavorful ingredient in a smoothie, tasting especially good when mixed with orange juice. The Korean melon also makes a fine cold melon soup.
Growing Korean Melons - Seeds for this melon are generally available if you wish to try growing your own. A warm weather plant, it may be necessary to start seeds indoors, or in a greenhouse, bearing in mind that the seedlings will quickly outgrow as small pot such as a peat pot, and will not do well unless transplanted before that happens. It will be necessary to keep an eye on the plant, trimming away excess vines in order to get a nice harvest of fist-sized melons instead of a larger number of much smaller ones. After one season of growing these melons, you will probably get a good idea of what constitutes optimal pruning. For the most part, they are no more difficult to grow than cantaloupe or honeydew melons. Just remember to wait until they are ripe before harvesting them, and once harvested you usually have no more than 5 days to do something with them.
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