Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When to Harvest Cantaloupe

It's been about three weeks since Lupe the Cantaloupe first appeared on the melon vine.  If all goes well, this melon should be ready in another two weeks or so.

If Lupe looks a bit less than perfectly round (or spherical, if you're three-dimensionally inclined) to you, then you're not alone.  I noticed the same thing last weekend when this picture was taken.  I don't know if our bandana support is not good enough or what, but Lupe has been looking a bit squished lately.  But as long as she continues to develop and ends up being tasty, I'm willing to let the aesthetics slide.

I also mentioned Lupe's little brother Tardo a couple of weeks ago.  Well, I'm sorry to report that he didn't make it. I know several of you were rooting for the underdog, but he just could not pull through.  This is what he looked like before I bid him goodbye.

Since then, Lupe has had more siblings.  Twins, in fact.  Unfortunately, one of them met the same fate as Tardo.  The other remaining twin, however, has gotten big enough to earn his own pink bandana (thanks to Sienna the dog).

At some point last week, the melon plant was supporting three melons: Lupe and the Twins.  I was in a bit of dilemma because I knew that Lupe would need less water as she neared ripeness, yet the Twins would continue to need lots of water for another few weeks.  I consulted by email with EG from Our Engineered Garden, who provided a lot of friendly and informative advice about melon support, sun requirements and watering needs.  He told me that it's difficult to cater to melons of different sizes on one plant and that the largest one usually fared the best.  He also advised me to abort the smaller of the Twins, which I ended up not having to do because it basically self-aborted.  I guess sometimes plants just know these things.

So, here's all the information I know about when to harvest a cantaloupe (muskmelon), based on my internet research and EG's helpful advice:
  • Muskmelons generally reach maturity about 5 weeks after the initial fruit set.
  • Water them "like crazy" (technical quote from EG) for the first 3 weeks
  • Reduce watering during the last two weeks to ensure sweeter melons.  This is true for all melons, not just muskmelons.
  • For muskmelons with netted/webbed skin (like Lupe), watch the webbing change color to indicate ripeness.  The melon itself will also usually change color from green to more beige as it ripens.
  • Smell it.  Hopefully it starts to smell sweet and melony when it's nearing ripeness.
  • Wait for the melon to "slip" (aka. separate, without completely falling off) from the vine natually.  Ripe muskmelon should pull off easily from the vine.
Oh, one last bit of melon information.  The term "muskmelon" refers to many cultivars of melons that include honeydew, casaba, crenshaw and yes, cantaloupe.  Apparently the true cantaloupes originated from Europe, and none are grown commercially in the U.S.  However, the term "cantaloupe" is commonly used to refer to any netted-skinned and orange-fleshed muskmelons in the U.S.

Since Lupe was grown from seed from a supermarket melon, she is technically a muskmelon.  But in the spirit of  "when in Rome..." I will continue to refer to her as a cantaloupe.


Ott, A. said...

Thanks for stoppin' by for a Latte'. I am always happy to meet fellow Hoosier Gardners and therefore am happy to follow you back. I think your cantaloupe will make it and be quite tasty. Happy Gardening!

The Apple Pie Gal said...

Interesting! And it's accesorized too!

Mr. H. said...

Nice cantaloupe, I grew some last year and they got as big as an egg...pretty much inedible. Yours on the other hand look great, especially plump little Lupe. Nice support slings.

Anonymous said...

Lupe is a big girl now!
Thanks for posting this information on growing melons. I will try growing them next year.

Thomas said...

I can't wait to see how these turn out! Slicing into a homegrown melon can be so nerve racking. I hope he turns out delish!

Sherri B. said...

You are amazing! Once again, I had no idea you could grow anything from supermarket produce!
What kind of soil are you using in your garden?

Cheryl said...

Looking forward to Lupe's debut. Volunteer plants a great.

GrafixMuse said...

Horray Lupe! We are all pulling for you! You gathered some great advice from EG and the internet. I love melons that slip from the vine when ready. Keep a careful eye on it.

Faith Kolean said...

You can save the seeds and have Lupe II next year.

Heather@myeverydaygraces said...

Very nice:) Thanks for all the great info on melons... I am going to go look at mine now!

Meredehuit ♥ said...

Love the bandanas!

ZZ said...

I tried to grow a watermelon a while ago, just because I love watermelon, but it didn't pull through.

I think fruits in the melon family are really hard to grow. But that's just me. I think you're doing a great job. Keep up the good work!

Beth said...

I'm jealous - in this part of the world (Willamette Valley - Oregon) we just don't get enough hot days and nights to grow melons.

thyme2garden said...

Ott,A - When I visited your blog, I missed the part where you're also in Indiana. Cool!

* * * * *
The Apple Pie Gal - only the best for our melons!

* * * * *
Mr. H. - Thank you! I hope the slings are doing their jobs right.

* * * * *
vrtlarica - she really is getting big, isn't she! With your amazing green thumb, I bet you'll grow lots of fabulous melons.

* * * * *
Thomas - I haven't sliced into my first homegrown melon yet, but I'm already starting to feel a bit nervous. What if it doesn't look or taste right!? I sure hope you're right and Lupe turns out as good as she looks.

* * * * *
Sherri B. - thank you so much! I hope you saw my post with weekly pictures of how this plant grew from seed! For the square foot gardening boxes and all containers, I'm using Mel's mix (equal parts vermiculite, peat moss and compost).

* * * * *
Cheryl - Stay tuned for the big harvest day and a taste test! Yes, I agree that volunteer plants are great, but this Lupe was no accident (literally). I very purposely grew this one from seed from a supermarket cantaloupe.

thyme2garden said...

GrafixMuse - thank you so much! EG has been such great help, I was so glad to be able to get my advice from the great Melon Expert. :-)

* * * * *
Faith - I could! Since Lupe's parent melon was most likely a F1 hybrid (being a commercial supermarket cantaloupe and all), I'm not sure how Lupe will turn out. If she turns out to be an acceptable melon, I'll certainly save seeds, but Lupe II (F3) could very well end up being different from Lupe (F2) and the parent melon (F1). We'll just have to wait and see.

* * * * *
Heather - Thank you, and you're welcome! Do you have melons in your garden, too? I'll have to come over (to your blog) and look at them!

* * * * *
Meredehuit - Thank you! Our dogs got them from their groomer a few weeks ago. They were starting to get a bit ratty for the dogs, but still good enough as melon slings. :)

* * * * *
ZZ - I wonder if watermelons are more difficult to grow than cantaloupes. Thank you for the encouragement!

* * * * *
Beth - but you guys grow beautiful grapes to make great pinot noirs over in your area!

meemsnyc said...

I love that you have names for all your melons. Hahaha! I am also so impressed that you grew this from seeds of a supermarket melon. Surprising!! Usually those seeds don't amount to anything, so that is really amazing.

Our coconut hanging basket looks a little sad now. In the spring it was really pretty. See here.

We went with a patriotic theme. Red and White flowers are petunias. The blue flowers... I can't remember the name of it. I have the tag somewhere, but it's buried deep in my bin of gardening stuff.

Greenearth said...

Love Lupe's hammock. What a great melon.

Wendy said...

what a fun and informative post! I love the tips for knowing when the melon is ready - always a nerve wracking thing for me...

thyme2garden said...

meems - we do what we can to keep ourselves amused with the garden. :)

* * * * *
Greenearth - thank you!

* * * * *
Wendy - I'm about to experience it myself in a couple of weeks!

ZZ said...

- Thyme -

You're welcome!

Like I've mentioned earlier, I am kind of a beginner when it comes to gardening, but I think some plants are more "delicate" than others.

I remember once, I had a sunflower seed, and it was growing just fine. But I moved it one day, from one spot to another, and that was it.

It was dying. I even tried to move it back to it's original spot, but it was too late.

thyme2garden said...

ZZ, this is my first year vegetable gardening, too, so all this is very new to me. Sorry to hear about your sunflower. I think you're right that some plants are much more sensitive to transplant shock than others.

Melissa said...

That EG, he's the fount of all garden knowledge. It's great to have garden buddies!

thyme2garden said...

Melissa - You're so right! Gardening is so much more fun when you can share stories and pictures with fellow gardeners.

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