MELON, Hale’s Best Jumbo (C. melo)

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Geography/History:
Food historians have been befuddled when it comes to determining the exact origin of the melon. Some say it was in Persia that the melon was first eaten; others say Afghanistan while still other historians pinpoint Armenia. Cantaloupes were cultivated in Egypt and across to Iran and Northwest India dating as far back to Biblical times, about 2400 BCE. Egyptian paintings dating back to that period include fruits that are identified as melons. In the ancient world no distinction was made between melons that were netted, such as the cantaloupe, or non-netted, as in the honeydew. Cantaloupe When Moses led the Hebrew people into the desert where they wandered for 40 years, one of the foods they craved was melons, possibly a variety of cantaloupe. In Numbers 11:5 the Hebrews remembered, “The fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons.”

Nutritional Value:
The ideal summer fruit, cantaloupe’s cooling ability is not so surprising when we realize its weight is 95% water, while the sugar content is only 5%. Cantaloupe is a dieter’s delight! It’s extremely low in calories, has almost zero fat, and its flavor is positively ambrosial. One fourth of a medium cantaloupe has only about 50 calories and provides 80% of the RDA for both vitamins A and C. Cantaloupe really shines when it comes to vitamin A. That one fourth of a medium cantaloupe provides a hearty 4450 I.U. That same quarter of a cantaloupe also provides 2% of the RDA for both iron and calcium, offers 1 gram of fiber and 1 gram of protein.

Preparation:
Begin by cutting the cantaloupe in half. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Remove and discard the strings as well. The melon can then be cut into slices, quarters, wedges, or chunks. For special occasions, you may want to create melon balls.
Sun: Full Sun in spring and fall/ Partial Shade in summer
Spacing: 1 foot apart
Height: 5 to 5 pounds
Soil Ph: 6.0-6.5
Days To Maturity: 65-85
Sowing Method: Direct, Outdoor

Planting/Growing Tips:
Amend soil with aged manure or compost before planting.
Growing the vines in raised rows, known as hills, ensures good drainage and will hold the sun’s heat longer.
If you are in a cooler zone, start seeds indoors about a month before transplanting. Cantaloupe vines are very tender and should not be transplanted until all danger of frost has passed.
If you live in warmer climes, you can direct sow seeds outdoors, but wait until the soil temperature warms to at least 65 degrees to avoid poor germination. Plant seeds one inch deep, 18 inches apart, in hills about 3 feet apart.
If you have limited space, vines can be trained to a support such as a trellis.
Care
Cantaloupe likes loamy, well-drained soil. Handle them gently when you transplant. Add lots of compost to the area before planting and after planting.
Mulching with black plastic will serve multiple purposes: it will warm the soil, hinder weed growth and keep developing fruits clean.
Fertilize when vines start growing.
Row covers are a good idea to keep pests at bay.
While melon plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Water in the morning, and try to avoid wetting the leaves. Reduce watering once fruit are growing. Dry weather produces the sweetest melon.
If you’ve had an exceptional amount of rainfall during the ripening stage, this could cause the bland fruit.
Once fruit begins to grow, prune end buds off vines. Your plants may produce fewer melons, but they will be larger and of better quality.
Vines produce male and female flowers separately on the same plant. They often begin producing male flowers several weeks before the females appear. (Don’t be discouraged when the first blooms do not produce fruit.)
Blossoms require pollination to set fruit, so be kind to the bees!

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