The Sweetest Melon...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hale's Best Jumbo Cantaloupe the melon that comes straight from the backyard melon patch! Like that cantaloupe to your right? 4.5 lbs. of Hale's Best Jumbo Cantaloupe? It will go down as the sweetest -- juciest bit of melon that has ever come from the Bird Backyard bar none.

In a summer full of gardening missteps and disappointments -- this baby goes down as the "bright spot" in the Bird Back 40. It's the "Grand Slam" in the bottom of the 9th in the 7th Game of the October Classic. I've never grown a cantaloupe this large -- and nothing -- I mean NOTHING -- has ever tasted this good.

Bill Bird is a tad melancholy this Sunday morning. Stick with me for a minute. It's one of those helpless little feelings you get when you open the morning newspaper (yeah -- we're old skool print people, people) and discover that a neighbor has just short-sold a home on your block for $235,000.

That price -- folks -- represents a loss of more than 50% on our housing value. Not 20% -- not 30% -- not 50% either. Make it more like 60% for a neighborhood that was nothing more than a rice field just four years ago. Who needs morning coffee when a former neighbor sticks a pin in your eye?

What does this mean? Well -- it means that Bill and Venus Bird aren't going anywhere soon! We're going to be farming this North Natomas Back 40 from "here until eternity" to borrow a somewhat famous movie line. I might even have to sell off parts of this blog. For three cents.

What to do then?

Kleckley Sweet Watermelon
Grow melons. Lots and lots of melons. Oh -- and perhaps drink fine gin that comes in a plastic bottle.

Melon season has indeed "arrived" in Northern California. Like everything else -- it's late -- but better late than never. And -- I'm also somewhat surprised to discovered that our cooler-than-normal summer hasn't affected the melon sugar content.

Venus and I harvested the first of the Kleckley Sweet melons last weekend. It wasn't huge -- not hardly. In fact -- at 10 lbs. -- that's rather small for Kleckley Sweet size. These babies can top out at 25-30 lbs. But you won't find me complaining here. This is one of the sweetest watermelons to come from the Bird Backyard yet.

There's nothing quite like the satisfaction you get when cutting into a melon and discovering that you have harvested said melon at JUST the right time. Picking melons -- for the most part -- is a crapshoot. Sometimes you get great melon. Sometimes you pick it a tad too early. Sometimes you pick it a tad to late. Picking it at the exact right time? You feel like you've just "doubled down" and life has dealt you a "21."

As for the Kleckley Sweet that we picked last weekend -- I noticed that the green rind had turned a shade or two "whiter" over the course of four or five days (I inspect the garden everyday because I'm quite insane and want to find out where "that damn dog" has been digging) and that proved to be a tell-tale sign that the melon was indeed "ready for harvest."

But you never really know until you slice said melon wide open and taste the gift that is located inside. And home-grown watermelon is quite the gift. It's juicy. It's messy. It's sweet. It's lip smacking good. And -- about those seeds? I'm of the opinion that it ain't melon unless it has SEEDS. Yes -- "seedless melon" or "seedless anything" for that matter is an abomination!

Besides -- the seeds are good for spitting at rogue cats. Or -- rogue neighbors who do you no favors...

Hale's Best
As for the Hale's Best Jumbo Cantaloupe? Figuring out that perfect moment to harvest is a tad easier. The melon color changes from green -- to brown -- to finally a light orange-brown. You know it's ready when the stem snaps off from the vine with ease.

The real trick is getting to said cantaloupe before the voles can "help themselves." So far? They haven't been the problem they were last year. But melon season is now just beginning in North Natomas.

The voles have plenty of time...