Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
We have been growing muskmelons (sometimes called cantaloupes) for many years, and a few years ago added the crisp white-fleshed Asian melons to our repertoire. I like nothing better than eating fruit fresh from the field, still warm from the sun. My article about growing melons is coming up in the June/July issue of Growing for Market magazine. Here I will complement that article and the chapter in my book Sustainable Market Farming by writing about personal size melons, a new category on the market, sometimes called “individual serving” melons. They weigh about 2-2.5 pounds each, compared to standard cantaloupes at 3-6 pounds each. To serve, just cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Add ice cream if you like.
Not all personal size melons are new varieties, or hybrids. Some are old varieties with a new marketing spin. We have grown some heirlooms, but the green tone to the flesh and skin, combined with the small size led people to think them not ripe when they were. Know when to harvest your melons!
“Full-slip” and “Half-slip” Melons Explained
“Full-slip” melons separate cleanly from the stem with only a little nudge. Look carefully at the point where the stem joins the melon. As the melon ripens a circular crack starts to open around the stem. This small disk of melon stays with the stem when the melon slips off the vine.
“Half-slip” is when half of the stem disk sticks and breaks rather than slipping free when you harvest.
“Non-slipping:” melons are overripe by the time the stem can be tugged from the fruit. These must be cut from the vine when the color suggests ripeness.
Types of Melon
Jeff McCormack of Saving Our Seeds distinguishes eight types of Cucumis melo melon. See this Saving Our Seeds PDF. Cucumis melo reticulatus, a group that includes muskmelons (which we commonly call cantaloupes) and Galia types, which are ripe at full slip; Cucumis melo cantalupensis, the true cantaloupes (which mostly slip) including Charentais (which do not slip); Cucumis melo inodorus non-slipping (‘storage’) melons such as casabas, crenshaws, honeydews, and canary melons; Cucumis melo dudaim grown for aroma, not flavor (such as Plum Granny); and four groups less common in the US: C. m. flexuosus (non-slipping snake melons, including Armenian cucumbers), C. m. conomon (non-slipping Asian melons and Oriental pickling melons), C. m. chito (mango melon and others named after other fruits) and C. m. momordica (snap melons).
Hybrid Personal Size Melons
We are trying Tasty Bites melon from Johnny’s Seeds. It is a cross between a charentais melon and an ananas type. It takes 80 days from transplanting to maturity, so it is far from being an early melon. Most melons take 70-76 days. Tasty Bites is a heavily netted melon with an attractive even appearance and no sutures (ribs). 2-2.5 lbs. It comes with the promise of an above-average shelf life. We don’t generally think we need a long shelf life for fruit, as they are usually snapped up and eaten pretty quickly! Additionally, the fruits ripen over a fairly long harvest period.
A source for many unusual melons is Seedman. Here are some other hybrid small cantaloupe varieties with suppliers:
Alvaro Charentais 77d, (much earlier than other Charentais), a sturdy grey-green, uniform, 2.3 lb deeply sutured, 5x6 inches un-netted fruits, with thick orange flesh and rich full-bodied flavor –remember to harvest at half-slip Fedco Seeds (F)
Arava, an 80d 1.6 lb smooth, uniform, lightly netted, Galia-type green-fleshed cantaloupe (F)
Golden Sweet hybrid, a very prolific 12 oz (350 gm) oblong melon with crisp, sweet white flesh and smooth golden skin which turns yellow before maturity - wait for a few more weeks to ripeness. Seedman.com (SC)
Golden Liner hybrid Korean melon with 11-16 oz (300-450 gm) golden oblong fruit with silver lines running end-to-end and very crisp sweet white flesh. (SC)
Hakucho Charantais hybrid melon, a sweet round 1 lb melon with yellow-gray skin, no netting, salmon-orange flesh (SC)
Lilliput, a 1-2 lb round F1 hybrid cantaloupe with deep orange flesh, small central cavity, high sweetness and fragrance. Slips when ripe. The lightly netted skin changes from light green to yellow-tan when ripe. Sakata (SK), (SC)
Savor F1 Hybrid, a very sweet, aromatic 2 pound melon of the Charentais type: faintly ribbed, with smooth gray-green skin, dark green sutures, deep orange flesh (SC)
Sugar Cube, 2 lb, 81d 4-inch greenish-skinned coarsely netted hybrid melon. Disease-resistant. Slips when ripe, has deep orange flesh. Burpee (B), (SC),
White Honey Honeydew an 80d, 2lb melon with almost translucent flesh. Ripe when the skin turns from white to deep ivory and emits a strong fragrance. It keeps well for five days after harvest. (F)
Open-pollinated personal size melons
Baker Creek may hold the record for the most OP melon varieties (approximately 100, not including watermelons, bitter melons, wax melons or any of the less common types). I have found Baker Creek’s website hard to navigate. Don’t let this happen to you! Go to the Rare Seeds website and it’s easy. Here’s an alphabetical list with suppliers:
Charentais, 85d. A French 2-3 lb. melon with light grey-green skin, and sweet, fragrant bright orange flesh. (Baker Creek)
Early Hanover, 75d. Lusicous, 2-3 lb, green fleshed melon. (BC)
Early Silver Line. Oval, yellow, 1-2 lb. Asian melon. (BC)
Eden’s Gem/Eden Gem/Rocky Ford, a 2-lb, 90d heirloom with spicy green flesh and greenish heavily netted skin. Vigorous vines produce 3–4 round heavily netted aromatic melons per plant. Fruits slip when ripe. (BC, F, SC and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, SESE)
Emerald Gem 80d, 3 lb ribbed heirloom, with pale orange juicy flesh, and striped dark green skin. A heavy producer. (SC)
Golden Jenny (orange-fleshed Jenny Lind type), Short vines producing succulent 2 lb. melons. Early and productive. (BC, SESE)
Golden Sweet, 75d, 1-2lbs, oval yellow Asian melon. (BC)
Green Machine/Ice Cream 80d. 2lb, Vigorous, compact vines produce green-fleshed melons, which slip when ripe. (BC, SESE)
Jenny Lind, 80d, 1-2lb flattened fruits with green sutured and heavily netted skins and juicy light green flesh. Sparse vines are prolific bearers. The melons blush when ripe. (F, SC)
Kajari, 75d 2-3lbs Unusual striped melons from India, with dark green stripes that turn deep orange when ripe. Medium green to light yellow honeydew flavored flesh. Slips when fully ripe. Each plant will produce 6-8 melons. Unripe melons can be picked after the first frost and will continue to ripen in storage. They have a long shelf life especially if refrigerated. (BC, SC)
Kazakh 1-2lb, sweet green-flesh and green skin which turns golden when ripe. Early, resistant to drought, and a good climber. (BC)
Minnesota Midget, Small early, 4-inch melons with sweet flavorful yellow flesh and green and yellow skins. Large crops on compact 3' vines. (BC, SC)
Petit Gris de Rennes cantaloupe. 80-85d, 1.5-3lb sweet orange-fleshed fruits with mustard/olive speckled skins without netting. Not a production melon - neither early, high-yielding nor easy to tell when ripe. Cut from the vine when the blossom-end is soft, then wait a while. (F, SC)
Rich Sweetness 132, a tiny red and gold striped 4 ounce white fleshed melon with good fragrance. (BC)
Sleeping Beauty, 1½ lb. round, ribbed netted fruits with succulent orange flesh and yellow tan-colored skins, grow on compact vines. (BC, SESE)
Swan Lake Honeydew 2-3 lb smooth yellow, partially netted melons with flesh that may be white or swirled with orange. Stem turns brown and separates easily from the melon when ripe. (BC, SC)
Tigger 90d, 1lb white-fleshed melons, with skins that are vibrant yellow with red zigzag stripes. They are very fragrant, although mild tasting. The vigorous plants yield heavily, even in dry conditions. (BC)
Photos by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Pam Dawling manages the vegetable gardens at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia. She often presents workshops at MEN Fairs. Pam also writes for Growing for Market magazine. Her book, Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres, is available at Sustainable Market Farming, Pam's blog is on her website and also on Facebook.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.