Cucumis melo (89 days) Open-pollinated. Open-pollinated. Also known as Montreal Nutmeg, the best argument going for maintaining gene banks. Believed extinct, it was saved by Montreal cultural preservationists who finally located a few seeds in the USDA Ames, IA, repository in 1996. But then the cooperation worked in reverse with the help of a Quebecois customer. This very rare legendary green-fleshed muskmelon was once the most widely grown in Canada, New England and the Upper Midwest. Hedrick in The Cucurbits of New York asserted that “handled skillfully and intelligently produces the largest fruits of its type in American cultivation,” sometimes reaching 20 lb. With an exotic sweet spicy flavor as unique as its size, these became the summer dessert of choice in New York’s Waldorf Astoria, Boston’s Ritz and other stylish hotels, fetching growers as much as $30 per dozen in 1921, and costing more per slice than most steaks on the menu. Though commercialized by Burpee in 1881, its roots trace back to the early French settlers. Widely grown on the western edge of Montreal in Zone 5b, it gradually disappeared after World War II as urban expansion and an expressway swallowed up its preferred rich agricultural land and tastes shifted away from green-fleshed melons. Its thin rinds, large size and inability to store long also dampened its success. Intricately netted and prominently ribbed, the aromatic fruits have a silky texture and a spiciness reminiscent of nutmeg or ginger that excited Nikos at our taste test. Regular moisture and use of horse manure are said to be the secrets to good growth. In zones and microclimates other than Montreal’s more likely to grow 4–5 lb. ①
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1 gram packet, about 20 seeds, sows 7 hills. Muskmelons are usually heavily netted and deeply ribbed with larger seed cavities than cantaloupes. Percy opines that they are easier and require less heat to grow well than cantaloupes.
PM: Powdery Mildew
PRSV: Papaya Ring Spot Virus
WMV: Watermelon Mosaic Virus
ZYMV: Zucchini Yellows Mosaic Virus
About 25–35 seeds/g; watermelons about 20 seeds/g; exceptions noted.
Days to maturity are from date of transplanting.
Melon seed lives more than 10 years with proper storage. 18th- and 19th-century growers preferred to sow 4- to 10-year-old melon seed, believing that such seeds produced plants that spread less and fruits with a finer perfume.
Most Years You Can Vine-Ripen Melons In Maine Melons are a tender crop with high nitrogen requirements. They love heat, cannot stand frost, and may be damaged by night temperatures below 40°. Though they require some extra fussing, the results are sure worthwhile.
Note days to maturity and select varieties that will ripen in your climate.
Start indoors in early May (later if the spring is slow to warm) in plastic or peat pots, 2 or 3 seeds to a pot. Minimum germination soil temp 60°, optimal range 75–95°. Melons resent transplanting but will take if their roots are not disturbed.
Prepare hills in advance with liberal amounts of well-rotted manure or compost. A cold start can permanently stunt growth, so wait for a warm spell after all danger of frost to transplant, usually between May 20 and June 20. Don’t place melons next to vigorous crawling plants like cucumbers, gourds or winter squash.
Water heavily and, if soil is dry, place a temporary hay mulch around plants until a soaking rain comes.
Melons are much more sensitive than squashes so use low tunnels with floating row covers that do not abrade plants. If you have sandy soil, check daily and irrigate when needed.
Use blue, black or clear plastic mulch between plants.
Use a foliar feeding program to speed ripening.
Remove row covers before buds open. Replace them when you don’t desire any more fruit to set.
To reduce rot loss, rotate ripening melons occasionally. To reduce mouse damage, place ripening melons on bricks.
Inspect your patch daily at ripening time. Check fruits for aroma and color and pull gently on those that appear to be ripe. Most muskmelons are ripe when the pressure causes them to slip from the vine. Harvest Galia, Charentais, Honeydews before full slip. Watermelons are ripe when the tendril near the stem is dry.
Enjoy an incomparable taste treat!
Pest: Striped Cucumber Beetle Cultural controls: use tolerant or resistant varieties, rotate crops, till under crop debris soon after harvest, use floating row covers until flowers appear, use plastic mulch, perimeter trap cropping (Black Zucchini and Blue Hubbard make particularly good trap crops), use yellow sticky strips, hand-pick early morning when beetles are very sluggish. Materials: Surround, Pyrethrum (PyGanic). 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, Actinovate. Disease: Bacterial Wilt Cultural control: Striped Cucumber Beetle is vector—control it; choose resistant varieties.
Fascinated by heritage melons? Amy Goldman’s Melons for the Passionate Grower (ISBN 1-57965-213-1), a mouth-watering journey through her 100 favorite varieties, is an indispensable identification and cultural aid.
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.