melon Cucumis melo, a fruit whose history, varieties, and nomenclature perplex even experts. All forms of the species hybridize readily with each other, or indeed with other family members; the French have traditionally taken care to avoid ‘incestuous intercourse’ by keeping melons and cucumbers well apart.
The melons familiar in western countries are eaten as dessert. In the Orient cooking melons, eaten as vegetables, are equally familiar. These two broad categories are treated here together. Neither includes the watermelon, which belongs to a different genus.