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The Christmas or Santa Claus Melon: How to Find and Enjoy It

Patty collects recipes and gadgets from the past and is particularly interested in early American history and all Indigenous Peoples.

Santa Claus melon is also known as Piel de Sapo

Santa Claus melon is also known as Piel de Sapo

Abundant in the Northern Hemisphere

The Christmas melon, also known as the Santa Claus melon, camouflage melon, and Piel de Sapo, is a cultivar of the muskmelon. It has a mild, melon-like flavor and is very sweet. Its scientific name is Cucumis Melo Inodorus (winter melon).

Several of our specialty markets and many of our chain supermarkets in Central Ohio, like Giant Eagle, carry the Santa Claus melon among an array of a dozen varieties of melons from around the world. In fact, growers tell us that this melon thrives in several places within the Northern Hemisphere. The largest region for growing these melons is the romantic La Mancha in Spain, south of Madrid. Murcia, Spain, also cultivates a significant crop yearly.

Christmas melon is also grown in South and Central America during the North's colder months, making it more readily available via international shipping at Christmas. These melons are shipped largely to Europe, while California and Arizona produce the melon for the United States. Colorado is under study in 2012 for possible production of this melon.

Largest Producers in the World

Largest Producers in the Western Hemisphere

The Muskmelons of Persia and India

As far as we know, the muskmelon (Cucumis melo) was first found in India and Persia (Iraq) in the 1600s and cultivated into several different varieties, including the Santa Claus melon in Spain. It is the muskmelon that yields the raw products to make Midori liqueur, a green alcohol beverage first made in Japan in the 1980s and named with the Japanese word for "green" (midori).

Midori was introduced into the St. Louis test market in the very early 1980s and was a fast success—I visited St. Louis in those years with family friends and saw all the posters and billboards for Midori, not knowing what it was at the time. I assumed it was made from honeydew melons. As it turns out, honeydew is a type of muskmelon, as is the Santa Claus melon. Those used in Midori come from the Yubari region of Japan and bring incredible prices at auction—up to $12,000 for a single fruit in 2012.

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How to Choose a Good Melon

This particular melon should have rather soft ends in a body that is 12 inches long and six inches in diameter. The thick, blotchy green rough skin that leads to the nickname toad skin prevents the aroma of ripe melon to come through, but the body should be firm. So, the melon is oval, with softish ends when ripe, without bruising or odd colorings. Some bright yellow lines usually indicate ripeness and sweetness.

Some sources list a totally yellow-skinned version of the fruit as well and this is likely the closely related canary melon.

The seeds inside of the melon are arranged like cantaloupe seeds, rather than watermelon seeds, and need to be removed before eating.

Keep the melon at room temperature up to two days before cutting. After cutting, place in the refrigerator for up to five days. It really does not keep for months, but is grown in the Southern Hemisphere during our autumn season to provide Christmas melon during Christmas and New Year's Week.

Choosing Nutrition: Potassium

This melon is a very good source of potassium. One cup of the melon furnishes 14% of the daily allowance of this mineral recommended for adults on a 2,000 calorie daily diet. The melon is low calorie, low in salt, and low in sugars, with just 5% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of carbohydrates.

Uses for Christmas Melon

This melon can be enjoyed by itself, cut into sections, or together with other fruits in a fruit compote during the late autumn and early winter. When available in summer, it is good cold for a refreshing side dish or dessert.

References

  • The Fresh Market
  • Hoffman's Markets
  • The Ohio State University Extension Service
  • University of Chicago - Champlain Extension Service
  • Whole Foods Markets

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS

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