Asian melons

24.05.17

Asian melons are members of the Cucurbitaceae family and are termed Asian melons as they are widely used in Asian cuisine. They originated from Indo-China and have spread throughout Asia.

Overview

币游注册The Asian melons group includes the following species:

  • Luffa aegyptiaca — smooth luffa, sponge luffa or sponge gourd (sze qua)
  • Luffa acutangula — angled luffa, silk gourd or Chinese okra (sin qua)
  • Momordica charantia — bitter melon or bitter gourd (fu qua).
  • several types within the species Benincasa hispida:
    • winter melon or wax melon (dong qua or tung gwa)
    • hairy melon (chia qua)
    • long melon (opo squash)

Bitter melon is the most commonly grown Asian melon in Australia and further information on this crop can be found in the Bitter melon page on this website.

币游注册All species of Asian melons are climbing annual herbs with long, thick, hairy stems with simple lobed leaves. All melons except the winter melon are grown on light trellises, winter melons, being quite heavy (3–4kg) can be grown on the ground.

All the melon types are consumed as immature fruits either in stir fries, soups or curries. Fruits of the smooth luffa must be harvested at a young stage to be edible, if left to fully ripen, the fruit is very fibrous and is used as a scrubbing sponge for bathrooms, kitchens and cosmetic purposes.

The Asian melon industry in Australia is classified as an emerging industry and is represented by the industry association . In the Northern Territory, Asian vegetables, including bitter melon, are also represented by the  and the Northern Territory Vietnamese Horticultural Association (NTVFA).

Facts and figures

  • Asian melons are members of the Cucurbitaceae plant family
  • They are grown in hot humid climates
  • The Northern Territory is the major region producing Asian melons in Australia
  • Production practices are similar to other cucurbit crops — most are grown on mounds and trellises
  • Harvest timing of Asian melon is critical to ensure optimum quality
  • Harvesting Asian melons is labour intensive
  • Australian production of Asian melons is consumed entirely domestically as fresh produce
  • Luffas can be grown to maturity to be used as sponges but there is limited production of this type in Australia

Production status

Publicly available production figures for Asian melons in Australia are difficult to obtain. In the Northern Territory, the major production area in Australia, the production of long melons generally exceeds luffas, which exceeds winter melon. Prices vary greatly depending on the quality of the product and seasonality of the supply.

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Map of current and potential growing regions

Weeds, pests and diseases

Both luffas and winter melons are relatively insensitive to most pests and diseases, however powdery mildew and downy mildew may cause problems if left uncontrolled. The major insect pests are fruit flies and aphids. Cucurbits are susceptible to viruses and aphid control is important as they are carriers of various viruses. Nematodes, particularly root knot nematodes, can affect all of these melons and it is important to use a crop rotation with non-susceptible crops, use of an off-season green manure crop may also help in the management of nematodes. Some growers plant alternate rows in their cropping systems to provide a break for soil health benefits.

Winter melon is particularly robust against disease and is sometimes used as rootstock for other cucurbit crops.

No pesticides or herbicides are specifically registered for use on Asian melons in Australia, however off-label use permits are available. It is necessary to check with the relevant state department for current permits.

For further information on diseases and insect pest of cucurbits and their management refer to the NSW DPI Primefacts  and .

币游注册 , which is currently the largest Australian on-farm assurance program for fresh produce for on-farm food safety and quality and environmental certification services.

When processing raw product into value-added food products, consideration should be given to food standards regulations. Further information can be found at the websites of ,  and .

币游注册Quarantine issues may need to be addressed if Asian melons are marketed interstate.

币游注册Another regulatory consideration relates to the use of pesticides as there are currently no pesticides registered for use on Asian melons in Australia, however off-label use permits are available. It is necessary to check with the relevant state department for current permits.