Persian melons are actually muskmelons, produced with a vining plant (Cucumis melo) that originated in Persia, in the region now known as Iran. The fruit gets its name in the sweet, musky odor when ripe. Persian melon plants were brought to the Americas in the 17th century by early settlers. Today, several types of Persian melons are widely available and create good growing selections for a home gardener.
Persian melons using a outer surface covered in a irregular green pattern resembling a net are called netted melons and belong to the Reticularis group. The melon commonly known as a cantaloupe in the U.S. is a part of the group. Cantaloupes are notable for their bright orange peel and strong, sweet flavor when ripe. Like most netted melons, cantaloupes are ripe when the fruit falls easily from the vine. Other netted melons include the Galia melon, a native of Israel with pale orange flesh, and the Charantais melon, originally from France and marginally smaller than the cantaloupe.
Several Persian melons are notable for their strongly colored yellow exteriors. By way of example, canary melons, also known as Spanish melons, have glowing yellow outer rinds and cream-colored, juicy, mild-flavored flesh. Casaba melons, another yellow melon, are unusual for their wrinkled, yellow rind, their oval shape that tapers on the stem end and their size, with individual melons reaching a weight of up to 8 pounds. Casaba melons mature late in the season, and create best flavor when left on the vine until fully ripe and slightly soft.
A few Persian melons, such as the Crenshaw melon, have dark green exteriors, developed by crossing different varieties. Crenshaws have flavor very similar to that of the Casaba melon, one of its parents, but also a somewhat wrinkled, dark green rind that softens to yellow green as it ripens. Crenshaw melons also tend to be big, averaging about 5 pounds, and may have flesh that’s either greenish or salmon-pink. Like most melon plants, Crenshaw melons need deep watering that thoroughly soaks the ground while they are growing, followed by reduced watering to enhance the flavor of ripening fruit.
Honeydew melons are bigger than most Persian melons, averaging about 2 to 4 pounds. Many honeydews possess a silvery white to slightly green outer shade, and light green or white flesh. Their flavor is sweet but subtle, and the flesh is smooth in texture. Like most Persian melons, honeydews develop best in well-drained, sandy to loamy soil. They prefer slightly acidic soil, but a pH lower than 6.0 may cause yellowing foliage and imperfect flowers.