Friday, 6 December 2013


The Melons, Cucumis melo are diverse species with many more varieties than rockmelon and honeydew, indeed there are some that are used as vegetables rather than as the sweet fruit we all know. Those however I will deal with when I get to cucumbers, because the earliest fruit used as a cucumber is actually a melon

Watermelons also exhibit some variation however they are usually readily identifiable as watermelons, while Cucumis melons vary greatly in appearance.

The wild ancestors of Watermelons grow throughout northern Africa and their seeds have been uncovered in excavations of New Kingdom Egyptian sites at Thebes (Jannick 2006).

Melons (Cucumis) Have their origins in Africa and South Western Asia, where cultivation began somewhere between 7000BC and 3000 BC (Szabó 2005).

While watermelons followed the typical route of North African plants into Europe, being mainly introduced through Spain During Moorish expansion, Other melons found a different route (Jannick 2006). 

In the 9th Century A.D. Melons are one of the food plants mentioned in Walahfrid Strabo’s Hortulus a poem a garden, it’s contents and the virtues of the plants growing within it.

Hungary is acknowledged as a centre for melon Biodiversity with at least twenty landraces known today (Szabó 2005). This diversity made it possible for Hungarian scientists to analyse and compare melon seeds found at a the 15th century site of the royal Palace on Buda hill in Budapest, with these modern landraces (Szabó 2005). The result of this is that it is possible to say that the medieval melon in this instance belonged to the Cucumis melo inodorus group commonly called winter melons and that it was probably around the size of a large orange with belong

green flesh and pale yellow smooth skin (Szabó 2005). The inodorus group are worthy of notice for their slow ripening process which enables them to be stored for several months making them an important source of fruit for at least part of winter (Szabó 2005).
 Melons of Hungary

Rockmelons, part of the melon group cantalupensis are a later introduction into Western Europe coming from Armenia in the early 16th Century and Ultimately becoming the most common melon type of the Renaissance  (Szabó 2005)..

Country or Region
Carolingian empire
Ferrara Northern Italy
Spain (Written in Catalan)
9th century
between 12th and 13th C
between 12th and 13th C
14th–15th century a.d
Walahfrid Strabos Hortulus
results of the archaeobotanical investigation of “The Mirror Pit”
Libre del Coch
Scientific name
Cucumis melo
Citrillus lanatus


o   Jannick J , Paris H, 2006 “The Cucurbit Images (1515–1518) of the Villa Farnesina, Rome”  Annals of Botany 97: 165–176, 2006 doi:10.1093/aob/mcj025, available online at

o   Jannick J , Paris H, Parrish D, 2007 “The Cucurbits of Mediterranean Antiquity: Identification of Taxa from Ancient Images and Descriptions” Annals of Botany 100: 1441–1457,

o   Z. Szabó1,2*, G. Gyulai2, Z. Tóth2, and L. Heszky2 2005 Morphological and molecular diversity of 47 melon (Cucumis melo) cultivars compared to an extinct landrace excavated from the 15th century1St. Stephanus University, 1 Institute of Botany, 2 Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology, Gödöllı, H-2103, Hungary * Corresponding author e-mail:

o   Strabo, Walafrid. Hortulus. Translated by Raef Payne. Commentary by Wilfrid Blunt. (Pittsburgh: Hunt Botanical Library, 1966)

o   Daunay M.C, Janick J, Paris, H.S. 2009 Tacuinum Sanitatis: Horticulture and Health in the Late Middle Ages Volume 49 - Number 3 Chronica Horticultulturae, vol 49(3),pp22-29 Accessed online



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