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.
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 AusVeg. In the Northern Territory, Asian vegetables, including bitter melon, are also represented by the Northern Territory Farmers Association 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
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.