[NAFEX] Winter melons??

Donna &/or Kieran holycow at cookeville.com
Wed Jan 16 23:48:45 EST 2008


Naomi,
    I tried growing winter melon in 2005 in a drought.  I wasted a lot of precious water keeping the vines alive, only to find that they would drop their blooms when drought stressed.  Never had a single fruit set.  Glenn Drowns comments in his catalog that he thought they grew really slowly till he realised that they required HOT weather to grow well.  If you can provide both very hot weather AND plenty of water, they will probably produce for you.  However, I suspect they don't have much taste or nutritional value, and you'd do far better to grow something like butternut or a maxima  squash that offers both, plus is proven to grow well in the northern states.  They sell winter melons in the oriental groceries, I have never been much tempted to try them because they are white and watery looking.  
    OOPS, do you mean Wax melon, as grown in Asia?  Or what we think of as watermelon, only for winter storage?  The trouble with that sort of thing is that we THINK in the hot summer that melon in the winter would be nice, but in actually it's not all that refreshing when you are already cool and wet in the winter.  I've stored tomatoes and grown the long keepers.  They are pretty neat, orange on the outside, red on the inside.  They were once called "Garden Peach" because they really do look like a peach, with a weird reddish glow from inside.   Unfortunately there is a bogus one being sold by the same name that is small and yellow and not intended for storage.   
    If you want to try something different, bitter melon grows very well here in Tennessee, and tastes quite nice in curries.  I've grown gherkins and tromboncini, both worth growing, and have met someone who grows Mexican sour gherkins.  Oh, and there's Apios americana.  Grows in every state in the east, from Z3 to Z9.  I note Diane recommends an Australian squash.  I have bought Jarrahdale grown locally and they are terrific.  Sweetmeat should grow for you too.  I'm tempted annually by the descriptions, but the borers are so bad here, they always get the maximas.  Maybe in a couple of years when this drought is over I'll try them.  Right now I'm planning to try to get everything going really early, and only very sure bets.  We're not getting the rain we need to replenish the soil deficit from the last 3 growing seasons, much less the groundwater supplies.  
    Have you seen the book WILD FERMENTATION, written by a fellow named Katz?  I think Fedco is offering it this year.  There is good info on preserving the stuff that we already grow.  Between that book and a woman I met I finally got the nerve to try lactic acid fermentation, and to keep trying till I got it to work.  I have Bill Mollison's FERMENT AND HUMAN NUTRITION, which is very informative and often useful.  ( I learned from it that fermented foods from Thailand are safe to keep here without refrigeration because they are 20% salt by weight, the only way to safely keep food in a place that runs 100 degrees most of the year.)  I have the European book KEEPING FOOD FRESH, which is very nice but the line for botulism is somewhere around 65 F, which is way below the ambient temp in TN in the summer.  I was thus thrilled when Katz showed up where I worked asking to put up a flyer for a talk he was giving about his newly published book.  He was exactly what I was looking for:  Someone who'd been fermenting food in Tenn for 10 years and wasn't dead yet.  I bought a copy on the spot!           Donna 
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