2016 was the year of heirloom vegetables. Way back in March I bought a pile of heirloom seed packets, including one for Kajari melon. Kajari is an Indian heirloom melon that I chose because it has a short time to maturity and because it looks cool. I started some inside and planted them out too early, so they disintegrated in the cold. In June I replaced them with seeds sown directly in the ground. The vines took off, and by late August I had a single ripe melon. It did indeed look cool.
At least from some angles it did. From other angles it was clearly rotting. I tried to let it ripen on the vine and left it too long. It was about the size of a tennis ball and tasted horrible.
The vines kept growing and, among the three of them, they managed to produce one more fruit, about four times the size of the first. I picked it green to save it from an impending frost and left it on the kitchen table to ripen. After about a week of being poked and prodded by my housemates (it even spent a few days wrapped up in a ribbon) it turned a satisfying orange color.
I undid the ribbon and sliced the melon in half. The flesh was firm but juicy and smelled great.
Unfortunately a lot of the space inside was taken up by seeds. I scooped them out, washed and dried them, and stored them away for next year. At $4.50 per 15 seed packet at Baker Creek, I could start a racket.
All told, I got a shy bowl’s worth of fruit. Was it good? Yes! It was sweet and juicy, with a slight vegetable aftertaste I’ve never noticed in a melon before. Like it was 6 parts melon but 1 part squash. I liked it – it felt earthy and satisfying.
But was it worth seven months of waiting? Maybe not.
Rhode Island is a tough place to grow melons. It can technically be done, but it ain’t easy and it ain’t guaranteed. Our summers just aren’t quite long enough. I did enjoy this one melon, though, so I’ll probably give it another shot. I’ll try to time my spring transplants better so I don’t have to resow in the summer.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll even get three melons.
A girl can dream.