[NAFEX] Chinese Che or melon tree

Lucky Pittman lucky.pittman at murraystate.edu
Thu Oct 7 10:46:34 EDT 2004

Here's a discussion on his experiences with Che that our friend Richard 
Moyer contributed, back in 1999:

"We have had Che fruit in for 7 years. Putin both a male and female plant. 
Survived 14 below several winters ago. Blooms after frost; has not frozen 
out in five or so years (am away from my notes), unlike our mulberry. No 
observed disease or insect problems. Birds are a problem, have netted the 
female. Disease and insect resistance similar here to mulberry and fig, 
which are in same family (Moraceae).
Pollination is the adventure with this plant:
The male sets fruit but most of these fall off; a few of them will ripen 
and be identical to female fruit. Male died to ground two winters ago; the 
female still set a full crop of seedless fruit. The male grew back last 
year, bloomed thisyear and acted like a female by setting the largest crop 
of ripening fruit yet. (It may be in the process of some type of 
conversion; time will tell.) Some debate has gone on for the need of a male 
pollinator. I'm not sure that I had any less fruit without the male two 
years ago. Our plants are on the far side of the field and hence do not 
merit close observation; my kids eat most of the fruit with the birds.
Both our plants are grafted onto Osage Orange. Hence, if you know how Osage 
Orange does on yours or similar land, this should suffice for your site. 
A.J. Bullard let a single stem go up to 8-9 ft, and cuts all others off, he 
has a nice form as the result. A number of our limbs on our bush are on the 
Hidden Springs grafts theirs onto Osage Orange if I recall correctly; they 
do not grow seedling trees of Che. If you mean they graft an unnamed 
"seedling", they then are no different from any other nursery, to my 
knowledge. Don't know of anyone who has selected and named superior 
cultivars from the wild (somewhere in China?) My impression of the one 
nursery that sells a seedless selection is that this if merely a female. My 
sample size is too small to determine the value of two for pollination vs. 
one female.
We are at 1800' zone 6, we rarely get into the 90s; we are on the 
borderline for enough heat to ripen Che fruit. In a cool summer, 
defoliation in fall will occur before last of fruit is ripe.
Ripe fruit has a strawberry color, knotty exterior like Osage Orange, 
tastes a bit like pear and fig to us; sweet but not overly so. Strange in 
that slightly unripe fruit leaves a metallic taste in my mouth.
In summary, an overlooked minor fruit. Well worth the effort to put in as a 
carefree, dependable producer in our area. The Blacks at Hidden Springs 
have made a jam with them. Lee Reich plans to include a chapter on this 
plant in his second edition of 'Uncommon Fruits Worthy of Attention'."

Richard Moyer
East Tenn

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