Sweet Melon | Kavun
Melons are generally believed to have originated in Southern Asia where they can still be found growing wild. These original melons were small in size and less sweet than the melon of today. From Asia, it is believed that melons were taken to the Middle East and North Africa. References to this fruit appeared in Egypt as early as 2,400 BC.
Archeological evidence and historic writings suggest that sweet melons, like those we know today, were cultivated in Central Asia prior to 850 AD. According to one description, sweet melons from the Central Asian village of Khorezm (Uzbekistan) were transported to the Medieval Muslim territory of Al-Andalus (Portugal and Spain) in the 11th century. By the 13th century, the Khorezm melon had become world famous. The sweet melons were sliced, sun-dried and then exported from Khorezm to India and Asia.
With the rise of the Roman Empire, sweet melons gained popularity throughout the Mediterranean. In the 15th century, the sweet melon seeds were transported from Turkey to Rome by Armenian Catholic priests. The seeds were then planted in Papal Gardens of Cantalupo (where the world famous cantaloupe draws its name). By 1471, the popularity of the fruit became evident when Pope Paul II died from over-consumption of sweet melon.
Today, Turkey ranks third in the production of melon worldwide.
In Turkey, melon is typically eaten fresh. Melon is commonly served with white cheese as an accompaniment to rakı.
In Turkish, melon is called kavun. With the exception of watermelon (which is called karpuz), the word kavun is used to describe all varieties of melon.
Although melon is grown throughout Turkey, the primary regions for cultivation are the Aegean, Central Anatolia, Marmara, Mediterranean and Southeastern Anatolia. The provinces of Ankara, Manisa, Diyarbakır, Balıkesir and Çankırı are well known for open melon fields.
Melon is available May through September.
‘Men and Melons are hard to know.’
– Benjamin Franklin.
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