Garden-to-table guide to melons

Tips for growing and caring for melons, plus our favorite recipes come harvest time

Homegrown melons

Photo by Rob D. Brodman; written by Julie Chai

Homegrown melons

Surprisingly fragrant and impossibly delicious, home-grown melons beat store bought any day of the week because you can pick them at the peak of ripeness and eat them while they’re still warm from the sun.

Plus, growing your own means you can choose from dozens of varieties instead of the few that are available in markets. The ones most commonly grown are either muskmelons, that have netted skin and salmon-colored flesh like cantaloupes, or late melons that are more varied and include honeydew, casaba, and canary. Whatever you choose to grow will be well worth the effort.

 

How to plant and grow

Photo from  Sunset Western Garden Book of Edibles; written by Julie Chai

How to plant and grow

The warmer your climate, the better melons will grow. Where the growing season is long, sow seeds directly in the ground. In cooler coastal areas or where growing seasons are short, choose fast-maturing varieties, use season extenders, and start seeds indoors in small pots. Plant the seedlings outdoors after the soil has warmed to at least 60° (raised beds warm up faster than flat ground).

Planting. Choose a site in full sun and with good drainage. Mix a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost into the soil. Plant two or three seeds (or one plant) per hole, 1½ feet apart in rows 4 to 6 feet apart.

Season extenders. In cool coastal climates or areas with short growing seasons, lay black plastic over the soil and tuck in the edges, then cut an X for each plant. Use floating row covers until the weather warms or plants begin flowering.

Watering. Use drip irrigation or a soaker hose to avoid wetting the foliage. Water often enough to keep plants healthy. When melons reach full size (but before they're mature), cut back on watering to avoid splitting and bland taste.

More: Tips on growing in small spaces

 

How to harvest

Photo by Rob D. Brodman; written by Julie Chai

How to harvest

When fully ripe, cantaloupes slip off the vine easily. Pick late melons when their color changes or when the leaf where the fruit attaches turns yellow.

More: Our favorite melon varieties

 

Berry-Melon Agua Fresca

Photo by Dan Goldberg; written by Margo True

How to cook: Our favorite melon recipes

After a few months, once you’re ready to harvest, here are some of our favorite ways to eat melons. Of course you can always just slice them up and eat them as is, but if you’re feeling adventurous, give one of these recipes a whirl.

Berry-Melon Agua Fresca

This is exactly what you want to be sipping on your deck on a Sunday morning. Although we used honeydew in this recipe, you could use whatever melon you’ve grown or like best.

Recipe: Berry-Melon Agua Fresca

Shaved Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Salad

Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Margo True

Shaved Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Salad

A salad that’s as beautiful and clever as it is delicious. Oh, and did we mention—it only has four ingredients?

Recipe: Shaved Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Salad

Watermelon, Cantaloupe, or Honeydew Sorbet

Written by Margo True

Watermelon, Cantaloupe, or Honeydew Sorbet

Sometimes you want just a little sweet, cool treat after a summer dinner—nothing rich or heavy. These pretty sorbets, which you should make with your best, most fragrant melons, are that kind of dessert.

Recipe: Watermelon, Cantaloupe, or Honeydew Sorbet

 

Unique varieties to try

Photo by Iain Bagwell; written by Amy Machnak

Unique varieties to try

Prime melon season is July through September. Be sure to sample these delicious varieites this season!

Clockwise, from left:

  • Ha-ogen: Chin-drippingly juicy, with slightly savory, tropical flavors and pale green flesh.
  • Tuscan: Earthy, clean flavor with hints of cucumber. Rich, amber-colored flesh.
  • Canary: Dense green flesh with a sweet flavor that’s musky in a good way, like grapes.
  • Moon and stars: Bright to pinkish- red flesh and a sweet-tart flavor.
  • Charentais: Deep orange and juicy, with a flowery aroma.
  • Mickey Lee: Red flesh with a clean taste and slightly grainy texture.
  • Ha-ogen (pictured again).
  • Crimson Sweet: Crisp, sweet, and mild, with medium red flesh.
  • Canary (pictured again).
  • Yellow Doll: Yellow flesh; slightly tart.

Even more unique varieties

Photo by Iain Bagwell; written by Amy Machnak

Even more unique varieties

Don't miss these other varieties. Clockwise, from top left:

  • Crimson Sweet: Crisp, sweet, and mild, with medium red flesh.
  • Charentais: Deep orange and juicy, with a flowery aroma.
  • Eel River: Supersoft texture, gentle flavor, and elegant perfume; orange flesh.
  • Ha-ogen: Chin-drippingly juicy, with slightly savory, tropical flavors and pale green flesh.
  • Honeyloupe: Hybrid that tastes and looks like a cross between cantaloupe and honeydew; bright orange, sweet, and juicy.
  • Mickey Lee: Red flesh with a clean taste and slightly grainy texture.
  • Moon and stars: Bright to pinkish- red flesh and a sweet-tart flavor.
  • New Orchid: Pale orange flesh and a rich, honey-like flavor.
  • Galia: As sweet, juicy, and succulent as a summer peach, with soft green flesh.
  • Eel River (pictured again).
  • New Orchid (pictured again).
  • Canary: Dense green flesh with a sweet flavor that’s musky in a good way, like grapes.
  • Ambrosia: Sweet, floral, and deeply flavorful orange flesh.

Printed from:
http://www.sunset.com/garden/fruits-veggies/garden-to-table-melons-00418000072403/