This Meatless Monday, we feature melon, with growing, storage and prep tips, as well as recipes for Cantaloupe Salsa with Crostini and Fruit Salad  from Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Palmer

Photo courtesy of Shannon Palmer

Background

Melons usually fall into two distinct categories: the ever-popular watermelons, and the Cucumis melons (commonly called “musk melons”), which include everything else.  Cantaloupe and honeydew melons, for example, are pretty closely related, but watermelons are a more distant relative.  The Cucumis melons probably originated in the region around present-day Afghanistan, whereas watermelons are native to Africa.  If you’ve ever seen melons growing before, you may not be surprised to learn that the vine-like plants belong to the same family as cucumbers.  Melons have been grown since ancient times, but it is believed that they were not bred for today’s high levels of sweetness until a few centuries ago.

Growing Tips

Melons of all varieties need plenty of warmth and a long growing season.  Start seeds indoors and transplant seedlings once the weather warms.  Start seeds in early April in pots with some compost mixed into the potting soil.  Seeds need warmth to germinate, so be sure to start them in one of the warmer rooms of your house!  Plant melons in rich, well-drained soil that is enriched with compost.  To give them a boost, grow your melons on black plastic, which will increase the temperature around them by a few degrees as well as keep down weeds.  Space plants se