Saturday, 24 September 2016

Sweet Freckles Melon

We first grew these in 2013, and since then it has become a regular in the garden. In fact, this year we grew no other melons, as seed for Sweet Freckles can be hard to get and I wanted to assure myself of a good supply of pure seed.

As you may suppose from that sacrifice - and sacrifice it was; no Gnadenfeld, no Collective Farm Woman, no Early Hanover or any other variety of cucumis melo for us this year - we regard this melon very highly. It is not a particularly old variety, since it was bred by Tim Peters of Peters Seed and Research, probably in the 1970s or 80s. Tim Peters aimed to create a variety of Crenshaw melon that was adapted to short, cool growing seasons since most Crenshaw melons require a long, hot season. Very few varieties of Crenshaw melon can reasonably be grown in Ontario.

Crenshaw melons are often described as a hybrid between Casaba (a winter melon type) and Persian melons, which is not strictly accurate. They were very likely developed from them, but there a now a number of varieties which are open pollinated lines in their own right. Unstable hybrids they are not. Eel River is another Crenshaw and perhaps the next most adapted for growing in Ontario, but I have not tried it. It is sometimes known as Crane, after its developer. One parent of that variety is said to have come from Japan, so neither Casaba nor Persian. Cottage Gardener does carry Crane, but it is a hair later then Sweet Freckles at 95 days to maturity. 

Sweet Freckles is much smaller than most Crenshaws. My largest weighed in at just a hair under 2 kilos, and since the average size is more like 2 pounds that was a mighty big Sweet Freckles. We had perfect melon growing weather this year, although the first year I grew Sweet Freckles it was cool and rainy non-stop and we still got very good results. It helps to have been bred in Oregon, I guess! Other than getting a couple of massive melons I can't say the hot dry weather made for better tasting melons than we've gotten other years, which is fine since perfect melon weather is definitely not guaranteed and that means that the flavour is reliably excellent.

These are not the earliest melons (90 days to maturity) and I do eye them nervously as the season comes to an end and they are not quite ripe yet. This year the vines were cut short early by powdery mildew, but fortunately these melons will continue to ripen off the vine. Their season is thus pretty short, and I was faced with having over 20 ripe melons standing by in a week. I dealt with this by drying most of them, and I have to say... DRIED MELON! WHO KNEW?! Well, people in Central Asia knew, and once I read this article on Ibn Battuta's melon, I did too... fabulous. So sweet, it's just like candy, with an amazing intensified melon flavour.

 The melons start off pale green with dark green splotches - the freckles - and as they ripen a yellow hue infuses the pale green background and the splotches begin to turn what may be quite a bright orange starting from the bottom of the melon and working its way up. The effect makes them look almost translucent or lit from within. The flesh is a typical melon pale salmon colour.

The skin is supposed to be more durable than that of most Crenshaws. That's... good. I find them delicate enough and they want careful handling. Still, the few that have suffered from picks and pecks deteriorated very slowly thereafter. There is a limit though so - careful handling. I don't think their disease resistance is outstanding either. However their cheerful tolerance of highly variable weather and excellent flavour means I will continue to grow these every year, if not in quite such perfect isolation.

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