How to Grow Sweet, Tasty Muskmelons

comments (3) August 5th, 2008

Pin It

thumbs up 12 users recommend


Hard-working black plastic mulch speeds growth, checks weeds, and holds in moisture.
Morning Ice needs three months to mature. The icy green skin becomes yellowish when the fruit is getting ripe.
Click To Enlarge Photo: Susan Kahn

1 | 2 | 3 > View all

When I moved from suburbia to a farm, I didn't let the fact that I'd never planted a fruit or vegetable deter me from starting my own agricultural enterprise. After talking to people and reading several articles, I decided to grow melons. My inexperience showed. Neighbors gawked at my crooked rows, and maintained a stunned silence when they learned I'd planted more than 600 seedlings with a soup spoon because I didn't own a trowel.

Laurie Todd with Slim Bunk, her muskmelon mentor
  The author with her friend and neighbor, Slim Bunk.

Eventually my neighbor Slim Bunk decided to help. In an unassuming way, he showed me his garden and inquired about my crop. He gave me a string line and helped me plant my first straight row. Slim taught me to identify weeds and bugs, to drive a tractor, and to recognize and solve problems before they grow into disasters. At 83, he remains my mentor and the first person with whom I discuss new ideas.

Thirteen years have passed since I harvested that initial, unsightly melon patch. Despite my naïveté, I had a beautiful crop. Since 1983, I've sold melons at the local farmers' market. Even at the height of the season, with 1,200 melons, I sell out. Locally grown melons are so luscious, they expose store-bought ones as flavorless imitations. By using a few simple tricks, you can enjoy them, too.

Long-season melons taste best
The term muskmelon describes a range of fruits that includes cantaloupes, honeydews, Cranshaws, and Charentais. Taste is my main criterion when choosing varieties. With few exceptions, I've discovered that only full-season melons possess the flavor I desire. These varieties, which mature in 11 to 13 weeks, meld fragrance and texture with a rich melon tang.

If you love cantaloupe, the sweet, full-bodied flavor of 'Gold Star' is unsurpassed. At 87 days to maturity, 'Gold Star' has the longest season among my picks. An earlier melon that tastes very good and offers some disease resistance is 'Summet'.

For honeydews, I like 'Passport' and 'Morning Ice'. 'Passport' is unusual because it is early (73 days) and flavorful. My experience with 'Passport' is that the first-set fruits have excellent taste, but later-set fruits aren't quite as good. 'Morning Ice' is an outstanding-tasting, full-term honeydew.

Melon connoisseurs who want a real treat should consider growing 'Savor', a French Charentais melon. Charentais are small, about 2 lb., and round, with gray-green rind and deep orange flesh. They are renowned in Europe for their exceptional flavor, but are relatively unavailable in American markets.
 
'Passport' honeydew hybrid melon
The flesh of 'Passport', a honeydew hybrid, typically is green, though occasionally you'll find one that's orange inside.
   
     
'Morning Ice' honeydew melon   'Savor' Charentais melon
'Morning Ice' needs three months to mature. The icy green skin becomes yellowish when the fruit is getting ripe.   A homely exterior holds great golden treasures within. The beige undertone on this 'Savor' Charentais signals that, beneath the warts and cracks, perfumed and flavorful flesh awaits. 

Melon connoisseurs who want a real treat should consider growing 'Savor', a French Charentais melon. Charentais are small, about 2 lb., and round, with gray-green rind and deep orange flesh. They are renowned in Europe for their exceptional flavor, but are relatively unavailable in American markets.

1 | 2 | 3 > View all

posted in: melons

Comments (3)

elliejackson writes: Great post
Posted: 3:54 am on September 10th
DerekSpencer writes: Wonderful work!
Posted: 4:28 am on July 6th
marquesssmith writes: Looks nice
Posted: 7:40 am on May 23rd
Log in or create a free account to post a comment.