July 16, 2022

When I started my patio garden in earnest two years ago, I planted watermelon and cantaloupe with the strawberries along the back side of the house.  The strawberry plants have done very well and filled the plot I put them in.  Sadly, I get few strawberries and lose half of those to the birds.  The watermelon produced loads of blooms but only 4-5 set, and all but one got blossom rot and died before they were more than 3 inches (9 cm) in diameter.  The lone survivor grew into an oblong gourd that only ripened on one end.  The cantaloupe did even worse.  I planted a second set after the first ones died and those also died within two weeks.  I did not grow any melons last year but being the eternal optimist, I purchased another cantaloupe as a replacement plant this year.

When I looked online, I found the North American cantaloupe (Cucumis melo var. reticulatus) common in the US, Mexico, and some parts of Canada, is a different variety of C. melo.  This is also called a muskmelon and has a reticulated (“net-like”) peel rather than the smooth green shells of the European cantaloupe (Cucumis melo subspecies melo).  It is a round melon with firm, orange, moderately sweet flesh.  Cantaloupe range in weight from 1 to 11 pounds (0.5 to 5 kilograms).  The name cantaloupe was derived in the 18th century via French cantaloup from The Cantus Region of Italian Cantalupo near Rome after the fruit was introduced there from Armenia.  The cantaloupe most likely originated in a region from South Asia to Africa and was later introduced to Europe.  By 1890 cantaloupe had become a commercial crop in the United States.  Originally, the name cantaloupe referred only to the non-netted, orange-fleshed melons of Europe, but today the name may refer to any orange-fleshed melon of the C. melo species.  The state of California grows 75% of the cantaloupes produced in the US.

I had weeded the patio beds before I had planted the tomatoes, but it took another two weeks for me to purchase the bale of straw to mulch them.  During that time the heat had killed two of my tomatoes and I had replaced one with the cantaloupe plant I mentioned.  I was able to re-weed and get mulch around the six Cherokee purples, but the heat kept me from venturing out to finish the job.  I continued to water the tomato and cantaloupe at the far end of the bed and even though they were completely overgrown with weeds, several small tomatoes had set and there were numerous flowers on the cantaloupe.  Today I decided to take the plunge and weed and mulch this last area.  To my surprise there were two small cantaloupes on the vines hidden under all the weeds.  Perhaps what I had needed to do two years ago was ignore the melons.  Probably not, as that does not seem to work with anything else.   

Thoughts:  Many believe the best cantaloupes come from Rock Ford, Colorado.  G. W. Swink grew the first melons beginning in 1887 and the Rocky Ford Cantaloupe was soon being distributed to distant local markets.  By 1896, train car loads of the famous cantaloupe were being shipped to markets as far as New York.  Their website informed me how to choose a ripe melon.  First, check to see if the netting on the melon is yellow.  Then look at the area where the melon was attached to the vine (the slip).  If you touch it with your finger and there is no stem left, it was ripe and ready to pick.  While my melon thrived even as I neglected it, this may have been the result of the plant being shaded from the intense sun.  Wild fruits and grains grow without human intervention.  However, they are smaller and are not as perfect looking like their cultivated hybridized cousins.  Even the vegetables from my garden are often eaten after first removing the “pecked at” parts.  Being willing to look beyond outward appearance to see the inner value is important for humans as well as crops.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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