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Orange-fleshed honeydew melons. Link to photo information
Orange-fleshed honeydew melons may be a better choice for organic growers than cantaloupe because of the honeydew's absence of netting, which is known to harbor bacteria that can cause human illness. Click the image for more information about it.

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Orange-Fleshed Honeydews Evaluated

By Alfredo Flores
November 29, 2007

A team of Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists has evaluated the merits of melons that combine the best attributes of cantaloupes and honeydew melons.

The team has been searching for new ways to solve organic and conventional melon growers' number one concern: food safety, according to plant physiologist Gene Lester, in the ARS Crop Quality and Fruit Insects Research Unit in Weslaco, Texas.

Cantaloupes, also known as muskmelons, have sometimes tested positive for Salmonella lignieres and Escherichia coli O157:H7. That's because potentially harmful microbes can readily lodge in the fruit's rough, netted skin and defy sanitation measures.

When netted melons are cut, any harmful microbes—hiding in crevices on the exterior surface and covered by naturally-forming biofilms that protect them from sanitizers—can be transferred to the inner flesh.

The team compared "netted" cantaloupes—the type bearing orange-fleshed fruit with deep-green rind and netlike outer markings—with a phytonutrient-dense, but nonnetted, melon genotype. They found that the smooth-skinned melons are less likely to harbor bacteria.

The smooth-skinned, orange-fleshed melons are also being evaluated for their flavor. One such melon, Orange Dew, is being grown organically in limited quantities in the United States. It has beaten the netted Cruiser cantaloupe in a taste test. That's because Orange Dew has a Brix score—a measurement of sweetness—of 11 to 14, compared to 9 for most cantaloupes. Sweetness has been shown to be the most important taste factor in repeat purchase of melons.

The orange-fleshed honeydews store well, too—for around three weeks, compared to 10 to 14 days for a typical netted cantaloupe kept in simulated commercial retail storage conditions.

Read more about the research in the November/December 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.