Harvesting a sweet juicy melon straight out of the garden is one of summer's purest delights. Figuring out when a melon is perfect for the picking, however, takes experience and a bit of luck. Here are some tips to help you harvest your melons at the peak of their flavor.
A melon's flavor comes primarily from its sugar content, which is pumped into the fruit from the leaves as the fruit matures. Once harvested, the fruit receives no more sugar. Changes in flavor and texture will continue to occur, however, so it's always best to leave your melons on the vine as long as possible.
According to reports from the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA, waterlogged soil dilutes melon flavor, so to preserve the flavor, commercial melon growers stop watering their melon crops 8-10 days prior to harvest. This period of "drying" allows the fruits to develop the sugars that give them their sweet flavor. In the backyard garden, heavy rains or watering them just before harvest can produce the same effect. Stop watering 8-10 days prior to harvesting.
As your melons approach maturity, start watching the forecast. Even without continued rain, a combination of cloudy weather and wet soil can be enough to halt sugar production and dilute some of the sugars already present. If the weatherman predicts cloudy, rainy weather just days before you expect to harvest, either pick them early or delay your harvest by 6-7 days to give your melons a chance to resume sweetening.
The timing of harvest will also affect the flavor of the fruit so a gardener should strive to pick them at their prime.
If you truly want to take the guesswork out of it, mark your calendar on the day the female flowers fully open, then count off 35 days. According to scientific "theory" your melon should be ready.
Cues To Ripening:
The terms muskmelon and cantelope are often use interchangably, but cantelopes are actually a cultivated variety of muskmelon, as are honeydew.
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com
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