Cucumis melo flexuosus
Common Name: Serpent Melon
Serpent melon is an annual plant, able to climb with the help of tendrils, but more commonly sprawling along the ground.
The plant is sometimes cultivated for its edible fruit from the warm temperate zone to tropical areas. Melons also provide an edible oil and have various traditional medicinal applications.
The sprouting seed produces a toxic substance in its embryo[
Probably native of Asia, though it has been in cultivation for so long its native habitat is obscure.
Derived through cultivation, it is not known in a truly wild location.
Melons are cultivated from the warm temperate zone through to the tropics, where they can be grown at elevations up to 1,000 metres. They grow best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 18 - 30°c, but can tolerate 9 - 35°c[
]. They are killed by frost[
]. They prefer a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 1,300mm, but tolerate 900 - 2,500mm[
]. They grow best in areas without too much rainfall or too high a humidity, since these conditions reduce fertilization and lead to diseases of the leaves[
Requires a rich, well-drained moisture retentive soil and a warm, very sunny position[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7.5, tolerating 5 - 8.7[
It takes 3 - 4 months to produce a crop from seed[
Individual plants are usually allowed to bear about four melons, and a crop of melons should yield about 5 - 30 tonnes/ha, with an average about 11 - 13 tonnes/ha[
Fruit - raw or cooked[
]. The fruits can be more than 1 metre long. They have a flavour rather like cucumber and are very refreshing when eaten raw in hot weather[
]. They can also be added to curries, cooked, preserves or pickled[
Seed - raw[
]. Rich in oil with a nutty flavour but very fiddly to use because the seed is small and covered with a fibrous coat[
]. The seed contains between 12.5 - 39.1% oil[
An edible oil is obtained from the seed[
The fruits can be used as a cooling light cleanser or moisturiser for the skin[
]. They are also used as a first aid treatment for burns and abrasions[
The flowers are expectorant and emetic[
The fruit is stomachic[
The seed is antitussive, digestive, febrifuge and vermifuge[
]. When used as a vermifuge, the whole seed complete with the seed coat is ground into a fine flour, then made into an emulsion with water and eaten. It is then necessary to take a purge in order to expel the tapeworms or other parasites from the body[
The root is diuretic and emetic[
Grows well with corn and sunflowers but dislikes potatoes[
]. The weeds fat hen and sow thistle improve the growth and cropping of melons[
Seed - can be sown in situ or in containers. Germination should take place within 2 weeks. When using containers, sow 2 or 3 seeds per pot and thin out to the best plant. Grow them on fast and plant out when about 15cm tall[
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