Melons and squash might have more in common than you think. But are they the same thing?
The Short Answer
No, melons are not squash, but they are closely related.
The Long Answer
Ok, so melons aren’t squash, but that isn’t a ridiculous question to ask.
They are related in a very indirect way. Both melons and squash belong to the Cucurbitaceae plant family. While some may point to this similarity as proof that these two fruits are the exact same thing, it should be pointed out that Cucurbitaceae is a very large family. It includes 95 different genera and roughly 965 different species.
A squash exists in the genus Cucurbita, which also includes pumpkins and gourds. Melons are in the genus Cucumis, making them completely different plants. A genus is a taxonomic category. You have a family, then a genus, then a species. So, while melons and squash are in the same family, they differ in both genus and species, making them completely different.
The word melon refers to both the fruit itself and the plant that it comes from. The most defining feature of a melon comes from its sweet and fleshy fruit. Some common melons in the genus Cucumis include cantaloupe, honeydew, sugar melons, tiger melons, and casaba melons, among others. It should be noted that watermelon, one of the most popular variants of the melon, is in the genus Citrullus. While that makes them different than other melons, it still doesn’t make them squash. Botanically speaking, melons are actually giant berries. More on this in another article to come.
Squash, on the other hand, is native to the Andes and Mesoamerica. It is typically used in a larger variety of recipes than melons. You can stew, soup, dice, and roast squash. Squash, like melons, come in a number of varieties. You have winter squash which are aged to maturity, with a thick hard rind that is normally peeled away before it is eaten. Then you have summer squash, which is picked before it has had a chance to fully mature. The rind is soft and often eaten alongside the squash’s meat. An example of a winter squash would be butternut squash, while a zucchini would be a summer squash.
So, as you can see, not every family member is the same. Melons and squash are vastly different plants that share a common ancestry.