Honeydew is a relative of Persian, Crenshaw and casaba melons (all Cucumis melo v. indorus). Honeydews were originally cultivated in southwest Asia and first grown by North American settlers in the 1600s. Dozens of honeydew varieties offer today's gardeners options with regard to flesh color, as well as disease resistance and growing length -- important considerations for those living in areas prone to fungal problems and short growing seasons.
The standard honeydew variety produces 6-pound fruit with a smooth white or pale green outer skin or rind that will turn creamy yellow as the melon matures, and light to lime green flesh, which is juicy, aromatic and sweet tasting. The majority of honeydew varieties take at least 100 days to reach maturity after planting outdoors, although some cultivars have shorter growing seasons. For example, the “Super Dew” honeydew is an early-harvesting melon requiring just 80 days to produce mature fruit. Conversely, the “Green Flesh” variety is more typical, needing 105 to 115 days to reach maturity.
Although green-fleshed honeydews are more common, some varieties produce fruit with orange-colored flesh. One such cultivar is the “Orange Sorbet” honeydew. This early-harvesting variety bears 6- to 7-inch melons with orange flesh in just 82 days. In addition, the five-star-rated “Orange Blush” honeydew produces fruit with orange-tinted flesh. Other orange-fleshed honeydew varieties include “Ambrosia,” “Earliqueen” and “Iroquois.”
Hybrid varieties of honeydew have been bred to increase resistance to common disease and to withstand certain environmental challenges. For example, the “Earlidew” honeydew variety matures in only 80 days and grows well in cooler climates. The “Early Crisp” hybrid is another fast-growing honeydew that also demonstrates resistance to Fusarium wilt, a common fungal infection. Similarly, the “Cool Green” hybrid variety is tolerant of both Fusarium wilt and powdery mildew.
Heirloom varieties of honeydew are also available to home growers. The “Tam Dew” honeydew heirloom produces an ivory-skinned melon with deep green flesh. Its growing time is the honeydew standard of 100 days to maturity. The “Honeydew Orange Flesh” heirloom variety is more unusual, as it bears smaller fruit -- just 3 pounds -- that have light orange-colored flesh. This melon produces mature fruit in 105 days.
“GaliaMax,” “Courier” and “Visa” are all hybrid varieties developed by crossing honeydews and cantaloupes (Cucumis melo). These melon varieties all produce a fruit with a netted rind like a cantaloupe but with the ivory green flesh of a honeydew, shorter growing seasons between 75 and 85 days, as well disease resistance to fungal disorders like powdery mildew and Fusarium wilt.