One of the true delights of the potager has been the melon crop. If you read the post discussing melons when I was mulling over seed orders, you may recall that I chose 4 varieties of melon, plus 1 watermelon. Three (“Sugar Cube,” “Tasty Bites,” and “Green Nutmeg”) were picked to climb the trellises, 2 (“Minnesota Midget” and the “Gold Crown” watermelon) were “bush” types that would fill empty spots in the interior border. All did not go quite according to plan, so I’ll be tweaking some next year, but all in all, I’m thrilled with the melon crop.
I seeded 6 seeds of each variety, but gave 3 of the “Tasty Bites,” 2 “Green Nutmeg” and 3 “Minnesota Midget” plants away. It was right on schedule, according to my winter-laid plan, when I put the first melons into the ground. The weather did co-operate, and our normal “frost-free” date of May 10th had arrived amid a stretch of lovely, soil-warming weather. Happily, the hardened-off seedlings of “Sugar Cube” and “Tasty Bites” went into the ground May 11th. They need 80 days and 77 days to harvesting, respectively, so I penciled a note on my calendar to keep watch by July 20th. “Minnesota Midget” is listed as requiring 60 days, and “Green Nutmeg” is also 80. Those plants went into the ground on June 2nd, along with the “Gold Crown” watermelon.
The first melon picked was a delicious 5″ Sugar Cube on July 28th. It was an exciting moment, and the sweet aroma of the melon was apparent with the first sniff. To tell the total truth, for all my eagerness for the first melon, I entirely missed picking the first one. It actually fell from the vine, fortunately landing in a rather soft bed of carrot tops to prevent bruising. It was absolutely drop-dead, mouth-watering, sweet as honey delicious. I was definitely hooked at the first bite.
The first watermelon was picked on July 31st. “Gold Crown” is a lovely melon, with bright gold skin and rosy-pink, sweet melon flesh. I only planted two vines and harvested 6 melons, 5 of which were delicious. One came off the fence, and I assumed it was ripe and took it to a family dinner. The flesh was barely pink, and although it was not awful, it definitely was not as sweet as we expected. The next 5 were fine, although at that point the vines were already nearly dead and ugly. The jury is still out regarding next year’s plantings. They didn’t take a lot of space and many visitors had never seen a gold-skinned watermelon. This one, picked this morning (Aug. 31) is fully ripe and delicious, although slightly smaller than the earlier ones.
The timing issue definitely didn’t work out as I had so meticulously planned. Although planted at different times, and having different “days to maturity” nearly all the melons were ripening at once as August arrived, beginning with 1 or 2 every other day, and increasing as the heat of summer continued. I picked this crop on Aug 27th
And this batch on Aug/ 29th
And these were harvested Aug. 30th! Plus 1 gray zucchini, don’t be confused by it.
It seems as though all the plants waited until the weather was just right, and then they all celebrated and produced melons at once!
My absolute favorite melon as far as flavor is “Green Nutmeg,” an heirloom dating from the 1830’s. Think folks, that’s 30 years before the Civil War. Scarlett O’Hara might have eaten this melon’s forebears. As you might guess, it has a green flesh and the flavor has a wonderful “nutmeg” spiciness that differentiates it from any other melon I’ve tasted in the past. I adore it, and will include many, many more plants in the potager next year, because I didn’t get many melons per plant.
Probably the most prolific melon was “Minnesota Midget,” which I grew in the 6′ x 6′ beds once the garlic came out. I should have recorded the number harvested, but I kept gifting visitors with a melon or two, and failed to record the number (or the poundage.) I took a few to my mother (plants earlier and ripened melons later) and gave several to neighbors, failing to record any of them. Next year, they will go into the ground first, hoping that needing only 60 days, I’ll get melons earlier and they will be nearly done producing when the others start ripening.
I should have kept better records on the “Tasty Bites” and “Sugar Cube” which were both grown on trellises. Frankly, they were both delicious, but the “Tasty Bites”vines are already dead, while “Sugar Cube” is still ripening a few fruits. Maybe I’ll eliminate “Tasty Bites” and give that trellis to “Green Nutmeg.” Just to prevent worry, the trellises will be moved to the center path next year, so melons won’t be growing in the same places.
It really doesn’t matter to me which I grow, because I love them all. Slice a tiny one in half, and it’s perfect for breakfast (or a hungry gardener who just happens to have a spoon in her pocket as she weeds!) A larger (5″ diameter) is halved to share as dessert, sometimes with a scoop of sherbet in the center, and sometimes just plain. Either way is divine. I’ve served slices of these tiny melons on antipasto trays, and whether plain, wrapped in prosciutto, or skewered with other fruits and a mint leaf, they were a hit.
Right now, the fall red raspberries are ripe, so I’m combining melon cubes with those, chopped mint, and a bit of orange marmalade as a dessert alone, or with shortbread cookies, or poured over poundcake or ice cream. If you haven’t tried growing miniature melons, I encourage you to plant them next year. I’m absolutely delighted that I did, and I’m wagering you will, too.