This member of the muskmelon family has cream-colored flesh, is extremely juicy, and has a mild cucumber-like flavor.
The casaba melon belongs to the winter melon group, which also includes the honeydew type. They are closely related to netted melons that we commonly call cantaloupes (Cucumis melo var. reticulatus). All the melons within the melo species are known as muskmelons.
The casaba is a native of Asia Minor. Most commercial production of casabas is located in the southwestern United States, particularly California. In Florida it is grown occasionally in home gardens. The main drawback to production in this state is casaba’s late maturity (120 days), which means it must ripen in our hot, wet months of early summer. Also, it is susceptible to leaf diseases.
The casaba melon grows on a vine similar to that of a cantaloupe. While about the same size, fruits are not netted like the cantaloupes, or smooth like the honeydews. Instead, they are profusely marked with deep wrinkles (longitudinal corrugations).
Skin color varies with the variety. ‘Golden Beauty’ fruits are pointed at the stem end, with green skin that turns yellow at maturity. The ‘Crenshaw’ variety produces a slightly wrinkled, dark green fruit that turns pale yellow-tan at maturity. ‘Winter Pineapple’ is light green even when mature. ‘Santa Claus’ is much longer than thick (almost cylindrical), fairly smooth-skinned, and colored with blotches of black and yellow.
The flesh of casabas is usually thick, and either white, yellow, or orange. Although generally sweet-flavored, its flesh is not as sweet as a honeydew. Casabas do not have the musky odor and flavor of the cantaloupes. Fruits do not “slip” from the vine at maturity; rather they are harvested by cutting the stem when the melons are reasonably mature and held in storage until the blossom end becomes soft.
Casaba melons are eaten fresh, may be cooked in soups (Chinese Winter Melon Soup) and added to salads. Generally, there are no commercial uses of Casaba in processed foods in western cuisine. The fruit does not freeze well, and breaks down with cooking or preservation.