"I reach to the leafy lips--I reach to the polished breasts of melons"
--Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

"I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons"
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(Cucumis melon)

More correctly known as muskmelon (see below), these fragrant cantaloupes were Persian in origin, but spread to the Mediterranean by Biblical times, where they were first recorded in 2400 BC. Today they come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, are are variously called casaba, honeydew, Santa Claus, Persian, etc.

They, too, were lamented by the children of Israel when they left Egypt to spend 40 years in the wilderness with Moses. From thence, melons reached Europe and were cultivated by the Romans.

In Manicheanism--a religion born in Babylon in the 3rd century that sought the release of Light (good) from the Darkness (evil) of matter--cucumbers and melons were thought to contain very high concentrations of Light, and the holy, abstemious Elect of the religion had the power to release this Light by eating them and belching out their Light particles.

Columbus reported in his expedition journal on his second voyage to the New World that he found them growing in the Galapagos from a planting two months earlier. The official date? March 29, 1494. However, it was not until some time after the Civil War that these melons became an important market crop in the United States.

The true "cantaloupe" (cucumis cantalupensis) from Cantalupo, Italy, is actually a hard-shelled melon that is not grown very much outside Mediterranean countries. It's actually muskmelons--with their soft rinds and netted surface markings--that are so popular worldwide.