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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
The word thus rendered, and no doubt correctly, occurs only in . The gourd tribe are remarkable for their power of adapting themselves to the different situations, where they can be grown. Neither extreme heat nor extreme moisture prove injurious to them. Mr. Moorcroft describes an extensive cultivation of melons and cucumbers on the beds of weeds which float on the lakes of Cashmere. They are similarly cultivated in Persia and in China. In India 'some of the species may be seen in the most arid places, others in the densest jungles. Planted at the foot of a tree, they emulate the vine in ascending its branches; and near a hut they soon cover its thatch with a coating of green. They form a principal portion of the culture of Indian gardens; the farmer even rears them in the neighborhood of his wells' (Royle, Himalayan Botany, p. 218).
These plants, though known to the Greeks, are not natives of Europe, but of Eastern countries, whence they must have been introduced into Greece. They probably may be traced to Syria or Egypt, whence other cultivated plants, as well as civilization, have traveled westwards. In Egypt they formed a portion of the food of the people at the very early period when the Israelites were led by Moses from its rich cultivation into the midst of the desert. The melon, the watermelon, and several others of the Cucurbitaceæ, are mentioned by Wilkinson (Thesbes, p. 212; Ancient Egyptians, iv. 62), as still cultivated there, and are described as being sown in the middle of December, and cut, the melons in ninety and the cucumbers in sixty days.
The melon was known to the Romans, and cultivated by Columella, with the assistance of some precaution at cold times of the year. It is said to have been introduced into this country about the year 1520, and was called musk-melon to distinguish it from the pumpkin, which was usually called melon.
The melon, being thus a native of warm climates, is necessarily tender in those of Europe, but, being an annual, it is successfully cultivated by gardeners with the aid of glass and artificial heat of about 75° to 80°. The fruit of the melon may be seen in great variety, whether with respect to the color of its rind or of its flesh, its taste or its odor, and also its external form and size. The flesh is soft and succulent, of a white, yellowish, or reddish hue, of a sweet and pleasant taste, of an agreeable, sometimes musk-like odor, and forms one of the most delicious of fruits, which, when taken in moderation, is wholesome, but, like all other fruits of a similar kind, is liable to cause indigestion and diarrhea when eaten in excess, especially by those unaccustomed to its use.
With the melon it is necessary to notice the Watermelon, which at present is cultivated in all parts of Asia, in the north of Africa, and in the south of Europe.
The watermelon is clearly distinguished by Alpinus as cultivated in Egypt. Though resembling the other kinds very considerably in its properties, it is very different from them in its deeply-cut leaves, from which it is compared to a very different plant of this tribe—that is, the colocynth. A few others have cut leaves, but the water-melon is so distinguished among the edible species. The plant is hairy, with trailing cirriferous stems. The pulp abounds so much in watery juice, that it will run out by a hole made through the rind; and it is from this peculiarity that it has obtained the names of watermelon, melon d'eau, and wasser-melon. Hasselquist says that it is cultivated on the banks of the Nile, in the rich clayey earth which subsides during the inundation, and serves 'the Egyptians for meat, drink, and physic. It is eaten in abundance, during the season, even by the richer sort of people; but the common people, on whom Providence hath bestowed nothing but poverty and patience, scarcely eat anything but these, and account this the best time of the year as they are obliged to put up with worse at other seasons of the year.'
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Melon'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/m/melon.html.