How to Grow Sweet, Tasty Muskmelons

comments (3) August 5th, 2008

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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

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Reaping the rewards

As harvest approaches, melon vines shift energy from producing leaves to ripening fruits. So don't be surprised if the mature melon patch looks peaked compared to the lush growth of early summer. I usually harvest four to six melons per plant. All the ones I grow except 'Savor' and 'Morning Ice' practically pick themselves. When ripe, they "slip" from the plant by disconnecting from the vine.

Picking melons at half-slip stage
  At half slip, all it takes is a slight tug to harvest a melon.
   
  Picking melons at full slip stage
  At full slip, melons sometimes pick themselves. Heavily netted 'Gold Star' is the best-tasting cantaloupe the author grows.
   
  More about muskmelons...

Ways to serve muskmelon
Recipe: Melon Cake with Citrus Glaze
Recipe: Melon Frost

Muskmelons turn from green to beige, and then to beige with yellow undertones as they ripen. When you begin to smell their aroma, your melons are almost ready. Whenever I spot a melon with a yellow undertone, I examine where that fruit joins its vine. The melon is ripe when a gentle tug releases the fruit. This stage is called half slip. A dead-ripe melon will eventually disengage itself from the vine. This is full slip. The time from half slip to full slip is, at most, two days. To limit the number of fruits I "share" with mice and other unwelcome garden creatures, I check them every day and pick them at half slip. Healthy vines continue to set fruit well into summer, but in my climate, late-set fruits don't ripen.

Charentais melons like 'Savor' will not slip, but they will start to separate from the vine. By the time 'Savor' is ready to harvest, it often has warts and cracks, and is as homely as it is delicious. I pick 'Savor' when its skin has a beige undertone and when a hard tug detaches the fruit. I don't cut Charentais from the vine.

Like 'Savor', 'Morning Ice' may require a strong tug before it disengages from the vine. It tends to split before reaching maturity. I allow split fruits to ripen because I've discovered that only a small portion of the melon needs to be discarded. Although it's difficult to judge quality by appearances, I've found that heavy netting (the maze of rough webbing on the melon's surface) is a sign of superior taste in cantaloupes. As a market gardener, I tend to leave slick-looking fruits of 'Goldstar' and 'Summet' in the field, but you'll want to eat every melon you grow.

by Laurie Todd
June 1997
from issue #9

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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
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