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Section 3
the best hami melon is not from actually from Turpan



xinjiang hami melon
   

 

Hami melons were known as sweet melons or "dome of the heavens" in the past, and in the Uygur language they are called kogan. In 1959, archaeological workers carne across half a preserved Hami melon while they were digging up a mass grave among the ancient Astana tombs at Turpan, while two pieces of melon rind were also dug up at a Tang Dynasty tomb. These finds prove that Hami melons were growing in Xinjiang over 1,000 years ago. Records from the past contain numerous references to and praise for Xinjiang's Hami melons. A writer during the Qianlong period (1736-1796) of the Qinq Dynasty noted: "Of the fruit from the Western Region, grapes and peaches nowhere flourish so well as in Turpan, and melons thrive nowhere better than in Hami." He added that "the melons sent as imperial tribute come only from Hami." Hami melons had long enjoyed a high reputation, and were a valuable item in the tribute presented to the emperor. Another Qing writer gives a vivid eye-witness account of how the Hami melon tribute was transported to the imperial court: "On the road I came upon a cavalcade of relay riders transporting Harni melons. Each man carried a small yellow bundle in which was wrapped a melon. I caught only a glimpse as they sped past, swift as birds." This extravagance rivals even the spectacular transportation of litchees from the south of China by galloping couriers as tribute for the Tang emperor Xuanzong and his concubine Yang Guifei.
The name "Hami melon" originated in part from hearsay and in part from its use as imperial tribute. One story says that the Qing emperor Kangxi (1662-1723), on sampling these sweet melons, asked what they were called. The palace attendant knew only that the melons had corne in tribute from the governor of the Hami prefecture, so he replied that they were Hami melons. Afterwards the name caught on fast. Although this may only be a story, records prove that the name "Hami melon" did originate during the Emperor Kangxi's reign. The-Qing Dynasty Annals of Xinjiang notes that "At the beginning of the Emperor Kangxi's reign, Hami capitulated and began to send melons as tribute to the imperial court.' These were known as Hami melons." Another explanation for the name is that since most of the sweet melons transported to Central China left Xinjiang from Hami, people generally referred to them all as "Hami melons." Hami melons are grown in the many oases to be found north and south of the Tianshan Mountains. At present Xinjiang has over 13,000 hectares under melon cultivation, producing about 200,000 tons fresh melons yearly. The Turpan Depression, the desert border
areas in southern Xinjiang such as Payzawat, Markit, Pishan (Guma) and Yutian (Keriya), and the northern areas of Xiayedi and Jing are all renowned producers of Hami melons. Among them, the Turpan region stands out as the home of crisp, red-fleshed musk-melons. This variety of melon has now become a top-grade export commod-ity fetching between twice and four times as much as ordinary fruit, and is sent all over the world. Oval in shape and weighing between three and four kilograms, the muskmelon has a greyish green rind, and around the stem there is a network of thick vein-like lines, known as the net. The flesh is the color of crystal jade, succulent and sweet, and full of fragrance. Tasty and refreshing, it has a fine crisp texture and each bite is a mouthful of honeyed sweetness. The area .around the Turpan Depression which produces the most exquisite muskmelons stretches from Shanshan (Piqan) County to the East Lake. Hence there is an old saying that "The sweet melons of Xinjiang .are the finest under Heaven, and the melons from the East Lake are the finest in Xinjiang." Xinjiang produces many different varieties of Hami melon which vary in shape, color, degree of netting and time of ripening. Every year towards the end of June, the small early-ripening muskmelons known as "Yellow Eggs" appear on the market. Following this, all the other varieties of muskmelon ripen one after another, and by the time the relatively late ripening melons reach the market in October, autumn is already nearing its close. Late season melons are of a high quality and may be stored for long periods and transported without damage. To prepare them for storage, they are first left out in the autumn sun to dry and then wrapped in a net and left hanging in a warm dark place through the winter. When eaten in the spring, they still taste as delicious as fresh melons. The 'people of Xinjiang put melons out to dry on their roofs, and store them in piles under their beds. Whenever they have guests, they serve freshly-opened melon, and in the dead of winter it is quite common for the whole family to gather round the stove in the evening to sample melons. Hami melons not only taste good, they are good for you. A source of Vitamins A, Band C as well as various trace elements, they also have a higher iron content than either chicken or milk. The Uygur people love to eat Hami melons and believe that eating plenty' of
melons keeps illness at bay and aids longevity, and this claim may have some truth in it. Hami melons are not only valuable as fresh fruit but can also be cut into strips and dried in the sun to make preserved melon. The stem and seeds can be used as medicine, and melon rinds make a fattening sheep feed. Harni melons certainly are a precious resource in Xinjiang. The fine quality of Hami melons has a lot to do with Xinjiang's soil, water and climate. At the same time, the people's rich experience, accumulated over centuries of melon cultivation, has been a vital contributory factor to the constant improvement of Hami melon varieties.