'Orangeglo' Watermelon

Even in regions normally considered too cool for conventional varieties, 'Orangeglo' watermelon offers its unique, mutable flavor to gardeners.


| June/July 2010



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‘Orangeglo’ has many of the same outward characteristics possessed by conventional watermelons (vines, blossoms, large oblong fruits), but you’ll be amazed by its bright orange flesh and multidimensional flavor.


ROB CARDILLO

In my part of the country, one of the great pleasures of August is the ripening of our local figs, which dot the backyards of homes all around Philadelphia. But out in the countryside, there is another event that draws people from miles around: the mid-August harvest of ‘Orangeglo’ watermelons. Not yet included in the list of heirloom varieties (they haven’t yet reached their 50th birthday), these delicious orange watermelons are nonetheless one of the best-tasting and most unusual melons on farmstands today. Put 10 people in a room with this watermelon and you’ll get 10 opinions about the flavor: Some say it tastes like cantaloupe, others claim mango, and still more will insist that it is a combination of pear and papaya. I can detect all of these, but it has a chameleonlike way of changing flavor depending on what you serve with it. No matter, the taste is exotic, crisp, refreshing and excellent combined with those figs.

The story of ‘Orangeglo’ watermelon goes back to the 1960s in Poolville, Texas, where it was developed by the Willhite Seed Company, which is well-known for its many varieties of watermelon. Over the years, ‘Orangeglo’ has proved itself through its huge popularity with small growers, and remains, hands down, one of the best-tasting of all the orange-yellow varieties. With rich, pumpkin-colored flesh, this orange watermelon possesses one of the fruitiest of aromas and a sorbetlike texture that makes it excellent for frozen desserts. Many watermelons turn bland and insipid when frozen — not ‘Orangeglo!’

More Cold-Hardy Than Most Watermelons

Yellow, orange, and even white watermelons are not as unusual as you may think. All of these colors appear in early botanical works dealing with melons, and color variations are rampant in southern Africa (where the watermelon is thought to have originated). What makes ‘Orangeglo’ watermelon special is its taste and texture, and from a health standpoint, its high concentration of beta carotene and vitamin C. The skin of the watermelon also is unusual, a pale lime green with dark green mottling arranged somewhat like stripes. We don’t often see this watermelon in supermarkets because packers don’t consider it a good shipper. The skin is thinner than that of many commercial varieties, and the melons tend to crack easily if struck.

‘Orangeglo’ also is popular for its rampant vines and heavy production of oblong melons weighing anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds. So the payload of melons is worth the effort it takes to plant them. Furthermore, after putting out some questions to my network of growers, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that some have managed to grow ‘Orangeglo’ in Zone 4, where temperatures often are too low for watermelon growing. Thus, it appears that this watermelon is far more adaptable than many, and it will yield fruit with good flavor even in cooler parts of the country.

The distinctive seeds of ‘Orangeglo’ are beige with two brown dots on either side of the pointed end of the seed. So it’s important to be sure you have ‘Orangeglo’ and not some other orange watermelon.

How to Grow 'Orangeglo'

Cultivation of ‘Orangeglo’ watermelons is simple. Start seeds indoors two to four weeks before the average last frost date for your area so you’ll have strong, vigorous plants with well-established roots for setting out in the garden. Do so at the same time you would plant tomatoes (a few weeks after your last frost). You can also directly sow seeds in the soil at this time.





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