Momordica charantia (65 days) F-1 hybrid. Bright pastel-green bumps and fluting cover the curvaceous lines of this well-named 8–14" beauty, looking every bit the jade dragon. Botanically, it is neither a melon nor a gourd. Don’t be put off by the English name ‘bitter melon’—instead, think balsam pear of Asia or karela of India, where it is a well-regarded tropical vegetable with rich flavor and pleasing bitterness. Long prized for its medicinal qualities, both the leaves and fruits are used as antivirals and to reduce blood-sugar levels. The leaves can be made into tea or cooked as greens. To prepare fruit for cooking, first scoop out the pulpy core. Elisabeth likes to sauté bitter melon in butter and have it for breakfast with eggs and rice. I have a friend who makes it a delicious centerpiece of his Solstice Feast.
Through the wonders of modern breeding, we can enjoy a variety that has been adapted to our climate. Juniper Farm, in Québec north of the 45th parallel, trialed 7 varieties and declared this one the best: early, productive (with about 3 fruits per plant) and oh so beautiful, “a gift to grow.” This truly versatile plant deserves more attention. Plant in the warmest spot in your garden or hoophouse, and use a trellis for straight fruit. ③
1596 Jade Dragon
About 130 seeds/oz.
Tricky to germinate. Use nail clippers to snip away a tiny bit of the hard seed coat, avoiding the pointy germ end. Soak seeds overnight. Fold them into a moist paper towel, and tuck it into a sealable bag. Keep at 80–90° and begin to check seeds after 2–3 days. When the seeds are split open and beginning to show white rootlets, transfer them into their pots, and keep them warm. Transplant once they have true leaves and danger of frost has passed. They love the heat!
About 200–320 seeds/oz for yellow, patty pan and Lebanese summer squashes; 1/2 oz packet sows 5–8 hills; 1 oz, 40–60 hills.
About 130–240 seeds/ oz for zucchini.
Days to maturity are from direct seeding; subtract 20 days for transplants.
Culture: Tender, will not survive frost. Minimum germination temperature 60°, optimal temperature range 70–90°. Sow in hills 4' apart, 5 seeds/hill. Thin to 2–3 best plants. Or start indoors, 25 days before transplanting. Immediately install wire hoops and row cover to keep out cucumber beetles. Floating row covers, especially when used in low tunnels, provide extra heat and can hasten maturity by 1 to 2 weeks. Make succession plantings to ensure harvest through the entire frost-free season, insurance against powdery mildew and other diseases of tiring old plants. For best flavor pick summer squash when they are small. Don’t leave oversized squash on the vines. It shuts down production.
Squash blossoms are a delicacy. Harvest male blossoms when fully open for salads or stuffing. Male blossoms typically precede females by about a week. Females have a bulge at the base of the blossom, an early stage of the fruit forming.
In early summer, a combination of cool, cloudy weather and declining bee populations may result in poor pollination causing low yields. Mites and colony collapse disorder have wiped out a high percentage of wild and domesticated honeybee colonies in the last 20 years, creating a real crisis for cucurbit growers.
Pests & Diseases: To combat squash bugs without using pyrethrum or neem: Protect young plants with row covers. Striped cucumber beetles and squash bugs overwinter in squash residues so burn or haul these away at season’s end rather than cold composting them. By hand-picking them in June and July, I reduced an endemic problem and almost completely eliminated squash bug damage.
Pest: Squash Bug Cultural controls: rotation, till in cucurbit debris before winter and plant a cover crop, boards on soil surface near squash will attract bugs overnight which can be killed, avoid mulching. Squash bugs lay their brown-brick red egg clusters on the underside of the foliage, often next to the central vein—destroy egg clusters on undersides of leaves. Materials: Pyrethrum on young nymphs, AzaMax.
Pest: Squash Vine Borer Cultural controls: butternut squash is resistant, maximas & pepos susceptible; rotation, plow in squash vine debris soon after harvest, use floating row covers, watch for wilting plant parts and destroy borer within.
Disease: Powdery Mildew Controls: Use small plots to slow spread, plant indeterminate (viney) varieties, control weed competition. Materials: sulfur and whole milk, mineral or other oils in combination with potassium bicarbonate.
Disease: Bacterial Wilt Cultural control: Striped Cucumber Beetle is vector—control it; choose resistant varieties.
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.
Our Seeds are Non-GMO
All of our seeds are non-GMO, and free of neonicotinoids and fungicides. Fedco is one of the original companies to sign the Safe Seed Pledge.