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Zebra melons are small to medium in size and are round to oval in shape. The firm, waxy skin bears a characteristic rough, netted texture and is grey-green with vertical, darker green stripes running lengthwise down the fruit. Underneath the thin skin, the flesh is dark salmon-orange, tender, very juicy, and dense, encasing a central cavity filled with many oval, cream-colored seeds. Zebra melons are highly aromatic with a musky, floral fragrance and have a sweet, honeyed flavor.
Zebra melons are available year-round.
Zebra melons, botanically classified as Cucumis melo cantalupensis, are small fruits that grow on trailing, slightly hairy vines that can reach over three meters in length and are members of the Cucurbitaceae family. Believed to be a variety of muskmelon, Zebra melons are favored for their small size as they are easy to transport from the market and can be quickly consumed before the flesh becomes rancid. Zebra melons are a rarer variety due to their delicate nature and short storage capabilities, but the small fruits are considered a specialty melon in the market and are consumed by locals for their sweet, juicy flesh.
Zebra melons are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, which can help boost immunity within the body and provide nutrients to prevent vision loss. The melons also contain potassium, fiber, and folic acid.
Zebra melons are best suited for raw preparations as their sweet and juicy flesh is showcased when consumed fresh, out-of-hand. The melon can be sliced into wedges and eaten as a snack, sliced and tossed into green salads or fruit bowls, or layered in oatmeal and yogurt as a breakfast dish. Zebra melons can also be used as a topping over desserts and ice cream, wrapped in prosciutto as a savory appetizer, or utilized as a garnish. In addition to culinary preparations, Zebra melons can be juiced and consumed as a refreshing beverage. Zebra melons pair well with hazelnuts, almonds, citrus, meats such as pork, poultry, and beef, feta cheese, goat cheese, and mint. The melons should be kept at room temperature until ripe, and once ripe, they should be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
In Indonesia, melons have become a popular cultivated fruit as they are relatively inexpensive to produce and are a favored fruit on warm, humid days. Many locals believe melons have cooling properties, providing a natural source of hydration, and in Indonesian hotels, pineapple, melon, and papaya are often served fresh to guests as a welcome gift. Melons are also often juiced and blended into fruit drinks in the markets for sale as a refreshment. In addition to commercial use, Zebra melons are commonly grown in home gardens as a specialty variety for fresh eating.
The origins of Zebra melons are unknown, but they are distantly related to melons that are grown in Europe and northern Africa. Today many of the Zebra melon seeds sold to farmers in Indonesia are produced by PT BISI International, which stands for Bright Indonesia Seed Industry. Zebra melons are found at local markets and specialty grocers in select regions of Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia.