You Can Grow That! Tuscan Melons
This summer I grew cantaloupe from seed and was pleasantly surprised at the delicious taste of the melons plus the ease at which I could grow the vines. These were not just any cantaloupes; these were Tuscan ‘Napoli’ melons from Renee’s Garden.
I started the seeds indoors under lights in early spring and in May, when the danger of frost had passed here in Northern Virginia, I planted several seedlings in two very large smart pots. By using large smart pots, new bags of potting soil, and a slow release fertilizer, I was able to give the seedlings the optimal balance of air, water, and nutrients. I placed the bags on a new garden bed I was creating that had a layer of hardwood mulch. The bags were in full sun, within reach of the garden hose. The vines grew down the sides of the pots and onto the mulch in no time. By June I had so many yellow flowers my kids thought we would be eating melons every day. Sadly, I had to explain that melon flowers are either male or female and they do not always open at the same time. In order to get fruit, bees have to visit both a female and a male flower on the same day. Statistically speaking, by summer’s end, we would have less melons than flowers.
Still, we watched the vines grow and by the fourth of July, we could see five small fruit, with smooth green skins. As summer flew by, the skins changed and developed the rough texture and netting pattern. Eventually, as the melons ripened, the skin turned to a yellow buff color, the netting pattern became more pronounced, and the garden was perfumed with a sweet aroma. Our Tuscan melons were incredibly fragrant; we could stand a few yards away and still smell the sweetness. When we picked our melons they were completely ripe, which is when the sugar level is highest. Tuscan melons in general have higher sugar content than the grocery store type of cantaloupes. Additionally, commercial growers harvest melons before they are fully ripe in order to ship with minimal damage. So ours were not only fully ripe they naturally produce more sugar and thus were sweeter than what we could have bought from the store. Next year, try growing Tuscan melons – you just can’t buy such beautiful homegrown freshness!
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