Cantaloupe!

One of my favorite meals is half a cantaloupe with a scoop of cottage cheese. Even though a favorite, I haven’t indulged for years. I’m lactose intolerant, so nix the cottage cheese. And I’ve been ‘off’ cantaloupe since the listeria deaths in 2011.

Recently, I discovered that Lactaid – a company that manufactures a lactose free milk – now makes a 1 percent lactose free cottage cheese. Heaven! And pretty good melons have been showing up in the grocery stores this year. Not as good as you’d expect to find at the Farmer’s Market, but pretty good.

Yummy!

Yummy!

As I put together plans for this year’s garden, I thought to grow some melons, both cantaloupe and watermelon. The seeds for both melons were a total bust. Nothing grew. But one day, as I was running through Walmart looking for shampoo, I spied both cantaloupe and watermelon plants. I bought two of the first and one of the second.

Today I have three cantaloupe vines – one of my seeds actually ‘took’ – and the one watermelon. They take up a huge amount of space in one of my raised beds, along with two rows of Delicata squash plants.

Thanks to the manure put down last fall and our recent, just-in-the-nick-of-time seven inches of rain, I have a profusion of squash and melon vines that have outgrown the confines of my raised bed.

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Now comes the part that I’m learning is somewhat problematic for all my vegetables. How and when to harvest.

I recall about four or five years ago, I went to a party given by some golf buddy friends of my husband. They had an enormous garden with lovely looking melons, each on its own little blanket. And indeed, the instructions I’ve found online suggest placing the fruit on some sort of cover over the soil – either paper or organic mulch.

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Fortunately, this is the one bed where I put down cypress mulch.

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As of today, my cantaloupe plants have blossomed, but I don’t know whether these are male or female flowers. According to http://www.organicgardening.com, only the female flowers produce fruit. And while I may have many female flowers, each vine will produce only three or four melons. The rest are supposed to send nutrients back to the vines.

Again, according to what I’ve read, I need to soon give the plants a drink of compost tea. You can find a recipe at http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/compost-tea.

And gardeners living in zones colder than Zone 7 are supposed to pick off flowers and smaller fruits after ‘midsummer.’

Midsummer. When is that exactly? According to most articles I’ve read, midsummer is the summer solstice, which has come and gone without fruits per se. And I’m uncertain which flowers to cull. Hmmm… I did read one article that said that midsummer was July 5. I guess I’ll be waiting to see if I have fruit in the next couple of weeks.

As for harvesting, my research has led to similarly vague instructions: “The stem of a vine-ripened fruit should break cleanly with no pressure at all on the stem; just picking up the fruit should be sufficient.” I imagine myself lifting the fruit up from the ground every day once I think it’s big enough just to see if it breaks off.

Next week I’m going to a class on bugs … excuse me, insects and other pests. I hope I can sit through it. I have to admit that I skipped the copious research on possible melon bugs.

Gross. But okay, baby steps…

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