The growing season is nearly done here in the northwest after a bounteous year of the garden variety.
Were the tomatoes more prolific than usual? We certainly enjoyed a lot of them as well as receiving lots of cucumbers, red raspberries, green beans, ear corn, bright peppers, zucchini and more. And Argo Acres, Drake’s, Selmi’s, Poci’s — became a second home. McGinnis’ Market was once an annual trek whereas Heirloom Market, its replacement in Thomson, is food and entertainment. Yum!
Are the melons better in this area than elsewhere? Or Neumiller’s potatoes tastier?
Would you have guessed that muskmelons and watermelons are members of the GOURD family—the foisted curious gourd a relative to the smooth, sophisticated cantaloupe?
Each melon (gourd) can be traced back four thousand years just by examining Egyptian hieroglyphics. Muskmelon are thought to have originated in Iran, North Pakistan, Afghanistan or thereabouts.
Melons are adaptable to various temperate zones but need adequate soil moisture and fertility. The seeds do need protection from some extremes such as wind and weather—seeds need cover of paper caps, windbreaks of trees and shrubs, or paper or be planted “in hills.”
The small yellow flower is a simple unit that produces either pollen or flower. They are insect pollinated and varieties are planted a quarter of a mile apart by types so they don’t “interbreed.”
Besides protective planting, the seeds are put about two feet apart, the rows five to six feet to space them so they don’t tangle in harvesting.
When a crack at the stem is visible the musk is about ready to harvest. Muskmelon of the winter type such as Honeydew, Persian or Casaba do not always develop separate layers until after they are ripe and they become sweet as they grow a little “older.” Growers develop and “eye” for the correct melon. It once was called “a melon in full slip” to the educated eye. Muskmelons can grow from two to ten pounds and as many as two to three to fifty on a vine according to variety.
They are round, oblong, smooth, ribbed, as if “netted” and notably distinctive by types; their flavors from slightly musky to strongly so. Growing time will last eighty-five to a hundred twenty-five days. They can be identified in the cucumis melo.
The Citron melon is not to be confused with the pastel melons that grace the dessert tray at the summer-autumn party.
The watermelon though you’d think it directly related to the muskmelon comes from another region. It is believed to have originated in tropical Africa and spread around the world with its beautiful pink-red, white or yellow fruit to add accent to the banquet, buffet or finger-food.
Every dessert, libation has been invented using the cooling refresher.
It once was legend that most melons would absorb the flavor of those planted near another type. But that has proved untrue.
Another legend had it that Abraham Lincoln was asked to come celebrate the initiation of the newly-founded town of Lincoln, Illinois, just north of Springfield.
The clever Abe brought humor to the occasion by using as the “baptismal juice,” a container of Watermelon “squeezin’s”. Appropriate for an Illinois summer, eh!!