I was going to make my fortune growing watermelons as an ambitious pre-teen farm girl. The generation before me found much success at growing watermelons. In fact people would stop into our farm years later and ask if we had watermelons for sale. I thought my genes had watermelon success written all over them.
It was not to be!
That summer I planted nearly 1000 hills of watermelons. Yes, you heard me 1000! First, a frost took the life of many seedlings. Then what frost did not get, cut worms gobbled up. And lastly … deer. I would find my muskmelons broken open. The culprit? Deer! My first lessons in business and farming… oh so much can be out of your control on the farm.
The process of eating watermelon Was. A. Big. Deal. My grandfather hand picked a lucky (or maybe unlucky) melon and dropped it into the cow’s watering tank to chill for a few hours. Since dairy cattle drank a lot of water the water in the cow tank was constantly refreshed with very cold, well water.
Grandpa would cut up a watermelon and we would eat big slices and spit black seeds into the sand on hot August days. The melon tasted super sweet, super cold. And there may have been some truth to why grandpa’s melons were so sweet. One farm market vendor told me he believes the seeded melons have a better flavor and texture. And you know when the watermelon vendor knows what he is talking about when he has both seeded and unseeded watermelons. A grower must plant the seeded varieties as they pollinize the unseeded plants. (See article below for more information.)
Picking a watermelon today is hard but here is how I think about this:
- The watermelon must have a yellow spot on it on the outside rind. That yellow spot tells me it ripened on the vine in the patch and chances are it is sweeter than one without the yellow spot. But, if the melon is purchased in a grocery store and traveled a great distance it may have lost some of its sweetness.
- I buy my melon at the farm market and only in the summer months. Farm market vendors sell their favorite (and sweetest) varieties whereas the grocery stores tend to focus on what will travel best through the supply chain and disease resistance.
- I have a few varieties I select for sweetness. I saw a Black Diamond at the grocery store the other day and scooped it up so far the best tasting melon of the summer.
These varieties on Cornell University website rated an overall “5” on a scale of 0-5 for Taste, Yield and Reliability:
- Burpee Hybrid
- AU-Sweet Scarlet
- Rainbow Sherbet
- Hale’s Best
- Desert King
- Orange Flesh Tendersweet
- Yellow Belly Black Diamond
- Sarah’s Choice
- Sugar Nut
- Super Star
- Bush Sugar Baby (The #1 favorite of my local farm market vendors)
- Sweet’n Early
- Small Shining Light
- Early Sugar Shaw
- Honeydew Orange Flesh
- Melon De Castillo
- Rocky Sweet
- Star Headliner
- Extra Summer Sweet
- Canton giant
- Petit Gris de Rennes
- Orange Blush
- Golden Crown
- Gourmet Hybrid
- Super 45
- Big Stripe
- Sweet Princess
There are many, many varieties of watermelons and this list is a starting point.
The flavor, texture and sweetness of a late summer watermelon can be mesmerizing. And every time I taste the perfect melon I think of the meticulous way my grandfather grew, picked and chilled it. No, I did not become a millionaire that summer but my watermelon summer created memories… and a few lessons too.
For more information about where seedless watermelons come from:
Information About Seedless Watermelon Seeds – Where Do Seedless Watermelons Come From