Melons are among the most refreshing fruits available. Two of the best-known melons, of course, are the watermelon and the cantaloupe, but honeydew also is a favorite.

Honeydews are a distinct type of muskmelon. Although the origin of the honeydew itself is obscured in the mists of antiquity, it is known to be a very old fruit.

The honeydew originated in Asia. The nuskmelon is believed to have been developed in Persia (now Iran), near the border with India and Afghanistan. The oldest record of the muskmelon is thought to be an Egyptian drawing from about 2400 B.C.

The correct designation of this cultivar is "Honey Dew" not Honeydew." This melon belongs to the cucurbit famil, which includes pumpkins, squashes, gourds, muskmelons, watermelons, cucumbers, gherkins and chayote. The family is among the most interesting plant groups.

If you buy a honeydew or any other type of melon, and the flavor is not what you expect, you might think that the melon tastes like a cucumber, a very apt description, considering the family to which it belongs.

A fully mature honeydew should be creamy white or pale yellow, even on the underside. The fruit should be large, at least 6 1/2 to 7 inches in diameter, and should weigh about 5 to 7 pounds. A ripe honeydew also should have a distinct and pleasing fragrance. There is generally, a very slight, oily film on the outer rind.

Large honeydews, those that grow closest to the root of the plant, are called "crown fruit" and generally are the meatiest and the tastiest. Seldom is a small honeydew worth eating, because it does not have a thick meat.

Don't buy a greenish-white skinned honeydew, unless you are planning to use the fruit as a centerpiece, because the melon won't ripen at home. Many retailers, realizing that most honeydews must be shipped firm, will ripen the melons in banana-ripening rooms before they sell the fruits.

If the melon you purchase is firm but meets size, weight and color requirements, let it stand in a warm room for several hours, or days, away from sunlight, preferably in high humidity, until the area around the stem and blossom end softens.

Only then should you cut the melon for eating.

The honeydew season is generally from May to November.

Honeydews contain vitamin C and are low on calories, averaging 92 calories per pound of the fruit.

There are many ways to prepare honeydews. Serve wedges or chunks of this melon as an appetizer or dessert. Thin, pared wedges are good for salad platters and antipasto.

Honeydew tastes great when served with a slice of lime, thinly sliced salami, crumbled bacon or blue cheese.

Try preparing this delicacy as a light salad on a hot summer day. Take a quarter of a honeydew, fill it with sliced, fresh peaches, blueberries, seedless grapes, and top with a blue cheese french dressing.