Early mornings are my favorite time to be in the field. Just me, the birds, and all these beautiful vegetables. Inevitably, I make a surprise discovery. Today, that discovery was a tragedy. The heat and rain of recent days had caused some melons to ripen so quickly they split. Juice was oozing out and ants were going in.
Growing melons is pretty simple – put some seeds in the ground, give the vines plenty of space, and let them grow. But, the tricky part is knowing when to harvest the melons. With carrots, you might be a little off and get a smaller carrot, but the flavor is the same. With beans, you can visually tell. Same with lots of other veggies. But melons are much harder – there is no way to know until you cut it and as a farmstand, I’m not allowed to cut melons.
So, what to do? I called the person I always call first for gardening advice – my grandpa. He is 90 years old and has grown more tomatoes, melons, and carrots than I can imagine. His advice?
- Watermelon: knock with your knuckle. If it sounds hollow, give it a try.
- Honeydew: when it is getting fuzzy, it is ready
- Cantalope: when you can easily push the stem off, it is ready
Sounds good, right? Well, I took that advice and went to the field. All the watermelons sounded hollow. Hmmm. On to honeydews. The smaller, newer honeydews looked very fuzzy, the large ones that were turning from green to white were less fuzzy. Hmmm. And there were some cantaloupes that looked very orange, but the stem was still pretty firm. Hmmm. So, what did I do? Picked a few big watermelons. Picked the least fuzzy, white-ish honeydews. And picked the catalopes that looked kind of orange and smelled like cantaloupe (yes, I got my nose down near the ground to smell a few.)
So, we’ll put them out and tell folks to buy at their own risk!
And for the tragedy, it wasn’t so bad… I pulled out my pocket knife, rinsed the split melon with the garden hose, and stood in the field slurping ripe, juicy cantaloupe off the rind. A split honey dew made it home to the breakfast table. Now that is vine ripe!