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.
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.