Just like the name suggests, the Korean melon is a variety of melon mainly found in Korea. Like most melon types, it is quite large, with a length of about 15 cm and a weight of around half a kilogram. However, the fruit is smaller than other melon varieties. The skin is yellow, with white stripes. The white flesh is very sweet, with a lot of juice and a specific flavour. The central cavity is full of numerous small white seeds.
Some cultivated Korean melons can have a different color, which can be green or even ivory. The taste of the fruit is unique and it has been compared to a mix between a cucumber and a honeydew melon. Because the skin is thin and the seeds are small, the entire fruit can be easily eaten. It is usually consumed fresh. However, a common side dish in Korea is pickled melon with added spices. Normally, the fruit is as big as a papaya, with the same oval shape.
The Korean melon is part of the cucumber family. It is an annual herb that branches and spreads along the ground. It has a hairy angular stem, with a diameter of about 7 mm. Leaves consist of 5 to 7 lobes and have the shape of a kidney. The flowers are yellow and both male and female ones can be found on every plant.
The fruit has been eaten in Korea for a very long time and was popular even during the historical Three Kingdoms Period, which started in 57 BC. It was probably brought from China during that historic period. It has a unique fragrance and taste, which makes it extremely popular and widely cultivated to this day. Korean melons and watermelons are ubiquitous in the country during the warm summer months.
However, the fruit is not easy to market. It is destroyed quite fast by sun exposure and it is apparently quite hard to harvest and transport. This is mainly because of the fragility of its skin, which can be hurt and bruised even by minor pressure.
Like its relatives, the Korean melon has an oval shape. The yellow rind is covered with white straight deep lines, spaced at even intervals. Inside the white flesh there are three spaces full of seeds. The flesh is mildly sweet and its flavour can be compared even with a pear. The flesh is moderately firm, with a delicate scent. Since the seeds are very small and the skin is thin, the entire fruit can be consumed. However, it has a very short shelf life. The Korean melon should be eaten in maximum one week after it is harvested.
Fruits, leaves, seeds.
The fruit is a great choice for skin maintenance because of the mix of calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C. This composition also makes it a good diuretic. Korean melons are rich in a bioactive compound named kukulbitasin, which is able to boost cancer resistance and destroy cancer cells. Herbalists use it against coughs and excessive phlegm. Like many fruits, these melons are also good against constipation and other gastric issues.
Traditional Korean medicine employs the fruit in the treatment of several diseases: jaundice, alcoholism, acute gastritis, fever, dysuria, paralysis or mental illness. The apex is a cure for constipation, syphilis, jaundice, edema, hepatitis and also acts as an emetic. The seeds can treat cough and indigestion, while the leaves counter baldness and can heal blisters.
The hexane extract of the Korean melon seeds is considered as a possible treatment for type 2 diabetes. Because of the hexane, the extract appears to block alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase, two important enzymes. This can have major benefits and balance the levels of blood sugar for people who suffer from diabetes. Hexane has the ability to extract fatty acids, resulting in the beneficial palmitic acid, linoleic acid and oleic acid. The seeds also have a content of other nutrients and are edible due to their small size. The fruits are also sometimes used to feed cows.
The distinctive feature of the Korean melon is the attractive yellow skin with an intense color and white ridges. However, the skin also makes the fruit extremely fragile and vulnerable to bruises. Even when handled properly, its shelf life is shorter than one week. Koreans have always consumed the whole fruit but this is not always the case today. The recipes are similar to the ones for other melons with a comparable size.
The first step is to clean the fruit in warm water. You can scrub it to remove dirt but only gently, in order to avoid damage to the skin. A special vegetable peeler can be used if you don't want to consume the skin. While it is traditionally eaten, the skin is bitter, especially in unripe melons, and might not be suited for all tastes. The fruit can be cut in half and the seeds inside are easily removed with a spoon. The fruit is then ready to eat. Normally, it is served after being portioned in pieces large enough for one bite.
The white flesh is very similar to the one of a cantaloupe but it has a stronger texture. The inner cavity is full of numerous small seeds that can be eaten or discarded. A popular recipe is to cut the melon in half and prepare a desert by filling it with ice cream or soft cheese. The flesh can also be served as cubes or slices, or wrapped in layers of mint and prosciutto. A spectacular garnish or ingredient for a salad is round-shaped parts carved from the flesh.
It is also possible to eat the fruits cold, after removing the skin but preserving the seeds in the middle. For storage, they are best kept at a normal temperature. The fruit can be combined with other ingredients and works best with garlic, ginger, cucumber, lemon liquor or mint. Because of its shape and empty core, the Korean melon halves can be filled with other fresh fruits and serve as edible bowls. The flesh doesn't resist much after the fruit is cut, but it can be stored in the fridge for a maximum of 2-3 days.
Despite its name, it is possible that the Korean melon is actually native to China. Today, it is found in many Asian countries, in particular Korea and Japan. It is also sold in the USA, but usually only in dedicated Asian stores.
The melon can be propagated from the seeds, or seedlings produced from them. For best results, they should be planted at temperatures of about 65 or 70 degrees F, since frozen soil or too much moisture will kill them. The melon needs at least 55 days of warm summer and does best in areas where the season lasts at least three months.
In order to grow well, the melon requires specific conditions. It needs a location with a continuous air flow, good soil drainage and full-time sun exposure. The plants should be placed in rows, with 6 to 8 feet between them and about 2 feet per plant.
You only have to improve the soil near the actual planting location. Remove about 10 inches of soil and place 3 or 4 inches of organic compost at the base, in order to provide both nutrients and good drainage. The 3 inches at the top should consist of 5-10-10 fertilizer, which provides even better nutrition if mixed according to specifications.
If propagation is done using seeds, plant them at a depth of 1/2 to 3/4 inches. Seedlings should be only placed in holes as large as their roots, in order to grow quickly.
Initially, every seed or seedling needs about 2 inches of water. Apply the same amount of water once per week and put a layer of organic mulch with a thickness of about 2 inches around every plant. This will preserve moisture and prevent weeds from emerging.
Korean melons are a great choice for a healthy diet. They are free of cholesterol with a low content of fats, sodium or calories. They provide generous amounts of dietary fibers, vitamin C and potassium.