Melon: History

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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The wild ancestors of C. melo seem to have been native to the region stretching from Egypt to Iran and NW India. This fits the belief of many people that the finest melons of all in modern times come from Afghanistan and Iran and adjacent areas.

There is little clear evidence of melons being eaten in ancient times. References from classical Greece and Rome are sparse and lack the enthusiasm which one would certainly have expected if they had really good melons on their tables.

After the fall of the Roman Empire the rising Arab civilizations began to cultivate melons. Ibn Al Awam (d. 1145), the agricultural writer of Andalusia, lists six kinds of melon (none, according to his editor, recognizable as a variety known now).