Melon - Secrets Of Growing, Storing And Consuming

Despite the fact that the melon is a "pure southerner", farmers grow it not only in the south. This is because this crop is extremely tasty and very useful. And the varieties "for the market" are not always of high taste, not as good as the fruits from your own garden or greenhouse. It is true that the melon has its "secrets", but they are not very difficult. So if you have not yet grown melon on your garden plot - you must try it at least once! And there, who knows, maybe you will like it. In this article we will consider the peculiarities of melon growing, as well as its useful properties and storage methods.

Melon - secrets of growing, storing and consuming
Melon - secrets of growing, storing and consuming

The botanical description of the plant

Melon (Cucumis melo) is an annual herbaceous plant of the family Pumpkin, It belongs to the genus Cucumber. It has long, creeping stems, not very large, alternately arranged on long petioles, roundish-ovate or palmate-lobate leaves, and pale yellow alternate-sex or alternate-sex flowers. Melon is pollinated by insects (pollen is heavy, sticky and cannot be carried by the wind). The fruit of the melon is a false berry, with different shapes and colors of skin and flesh. The root system is located mainly in the upper layer of soil and covers a fairly large area.

The melon blooms in June-July. Forms up to eight fruits per plant, weighing from 0.5 to 20 kg, depending on the variety. Ripens in August-September.

Today there is a huge variety of forms and subspecies of melon. Some of them have food features closer to cucumber, some - to zucchini, used in cooking as a vegetable. But the most common are still our usual sweet varieties of melon, the total number of which approaches 1000.

The melon is considered the native land of Asia. Precisely because of its origin, it is drought-resistant, needs plenty of heat and sun, tolerates saline soils well, but poorly - high air humidity.

Like most crops, melon varieties are divided by maturity, so when selecting a variety for your climate conditions, be sure to focus on this indicator. But in addition, there is another important characteristic for this crop - fruit shelf-life, calculated from the moment of harvesting. It is important for those who want to save melon for a long time:

  • less than 15 days - low storage ability;
  • to 30 days - low storage ability;
  • to 60 days - medium;
  • to 90 days - preservative varieties;
  • over 90 days - very preservative. Up to 3 months can be stored melons of medium maturity. But special winter varieties can "stay" up to 6 months.

    The flavor and sweetness of the melon are not only varietal specifics but also depend on weather conditions, the time of harvesting and proper cultivation.

    Melon - secrets of growing, storing and consuming
    Aroma of melon is not only a sort peculiarity but also depends on weather conditions, time of harvesting and correct farming

    Melon's health

    Melon is mostly eaten fresh. But it is also delicious dried and dried, and processed into jam, honey, candied fruits, jam, marinades. Its seeds are dried, made from them "milk" and smoothies, by cold pressing processed into oil.

    Oil has a light yellow color and unobtrusive melon flavor. Its use is found in cooking for home baking, pancakes and pancakes, as a dressing for vitamin vegetable salads and additives in marinades. They contain vitamins C, B6, carotene, folic and nicotinic acids, and easily digestible salts of iron. They are often used in dietary supplements in diseases of the kidneys, liver, cardiovascular system, overwork, gout, obesity, hemorrhoids, anemia, recommended as an anthelmintic.

    Melon seeds are used for kidney and liver diseases, to improve the intestinal microflora, nervous system, treatment of coughs, as a diuretic and laxative, to normalize cholesterol levels in the blood, to combat inflammation, stimulation of milk production in nursing mothers. The seeds are rich in minerals and trace elements, contain valuable fats and proteins.

    Melon seed oil includes a rich spectrum of fatty acids and other substances that are beneficial to the human body. Due to its useful composition, it is recommended as a preventive of cardiovascular disease, the recovery of the gastrointestinal tract and liver, to reduce cholesterol levels, support the nervous system, as an anti-allergenic and restorative agent.

    Despite all the usefulness and recommendations for prolonged use of melon fruit, it is not recommended to eat a lot of melon flesh at once, because it can provoke colic or cause a sharp looseness of intestine. A mask of softened pulp not only nourishes but also tones the skin of the face, lips and hands. Decoction from the seeds gently whitens it.

    Melon - secrets of growing, storing and consuming
    The soil for melon is preferably light, well cultivated, rich in nutrients. © podgardening

    Peculiarities of growing melon

    Selection of place

    As already mentioned, melon is very fond of sun. Therefore, when choosing a place for this crop, preference should be given to open areas, southern slopes, places protected from cold winds. Lack of light leads to a decrease in the number of fruit set and their quality.

    In addition, the melon likes heat. Its seeds begin to germinate as soon as the soil temperature reaches +15°C, or better, +24°C. If after sowing, the soil temperature drops below +15 ° C, they just rot, and if they germinate, they are often struck by black stem. The culture also does not like sharp fluctuations in temperature. For this reason, in zones of risky agriculture it is grown either in greenhouses or with cover during transplanting of seedlings and at the end of summer.

    Loves melon spacious places. In order to form a good yield it requires rather large area for feeding, so do not overgrow plants.

    Field for melon preferably is light, well cultivated, rich in nutrients, with a neutral reaction and good air and water permeability. So after predecessors, which can be legumes, cabbage, corn, garlic or onions, winter cereals, the allotted area for the culture is well plowed, manure is added, and on clay soils - and sand.

    Planning of melon in the open field by seedling method

    South melon is sown by seeds into the soil. In conditions of short summer grow through seedlings on warm beds. To ensure its maturity, the most early-ripening varieties and hybrids are chosen: the period from the moment of sprouting to the ripening of the first fruit is about 75 days.

    The melon seeds are pretreated and soaked in moist gauze, then they are placed in pots bearing in mind that the plants can be planted in the ground only after the threat of return frosts at the age of 28-30 days. Since culture is susceptible to trauma of the root system, the sowing takes a container with a diameter of 10 cm, or carry out planting in peat hummocks or bags.

    The melon seeds have the best germination is not last year's collection, and 2 - 5 years ago.

    Pouring of young seedlings performed by the root. Make sure that there is no drop in temperature, and that the plants are well ventilated. Twice during the growth of seedlings, carry out feeding complex fertilizer - after the appearance of two true leaves and after two weeks. If there is a need, the plants are additionally illuminated, providing 12-hour daylight hours.

    Sowing seeds in the open field

    Sowing melon seeds immediately in the permanent place bury them 3 cm deep, placing 2-3 seeds in a hole, at a distance from each other. To speed up the emergence of seedlings, cover the place of sowing with foil. When the plants have grown a little taller, the weak ones are removed, leaving only the well developed ones.

    Forming melon in the open field

    The melon needs to be shaped to produce a good crop. Variety plants have more female flowers formed on side shoots of the third order, so they prick the main stem above the 4th leaf, and then - side shoots above the 2nd-4th leaf.

    After it becomes clear which shoots are the strongest, the plant leaves only them, in number not more than 3, the rest is removed.

    Hybrid plants have the main yield laid on the main stem, so they prick the side shoots above the second leaf. In addition, in conditions of a short summer, only 2-3 fruits per plant are left at a certain distance from each other. And in the south - 6-8 fruits.

    Melon - secrets of growing, storing and consuming
    To the right is the female melon flower, to the left - the male. © Oksana Gula

    Pouring

    Particular attention in melon farming should be paid to watering. This crop likes hot dry climate, so the excessive moisture in the soil does not feel it well.

    For this reason, if before flowering the melon is watered regularly, after flowering - very rarely, if necessary it will take the necessary amount of moisture from the ground itself. At fruit ripening they completely refuse watering.

    Fertilizers

    Three times during melon development: two weeks after planting in the soil, at the moment of the first flowers sprouting and when fruits set. Only organic fertilizers are used for feeding, since it was observed that mineral fertilizers significantly affect the size of melon, but do not allow them to gain sweetness.

    At the time of maturing it is useful to scatter around ashes around plants - it is a potassium fertilizer and prevention of fungal diseases and scare away pests. This method is good for places where it simply does not have time to ripen, or to get an earlier harvest. In this case, the melon is planted either in two rows, staggered at intervals of 45 cm, or in one row with 100 cm between the plants, if no bush formation is planned. Each plant is tied down. To increase the yield, the plants are shaped and necessarily pollinated by hand.

    Pollination in a dry, warm morning, the male flower is plucked, the petals are removed, and the remaining middle is touched to the middle of a fully opened female flower. The procedure is repeated several times, changing the male flower. Or transfer pollen with a soft paintbrush or cotton swab.

    Forming plants begin by pinching the main stem above the 4th leaf, then pinching the side shoots after 2-3 leaves above the ovary. Steps are removed. A total of two or three stems are left on the plant, each with 1-3 fruits. In large-fruited varieties of melons are placed in a net and hung, or tied under the stalk. To prevent rotting a plank is put under those that lie on the ground.

    Melon - secrets of growing, storing and consuming
    When forming melons in a greenhouse two to three stems are left on the plant, 1-3 fruits on each of them. © Oksana Gula

    Diseases and pests of melon

    Modern melon varieties and hybrids are quite resistant to diseases. But under humid conditions combined with high temperatures the melon may be affected by anthracnose, cladosporiosis, powdery mildew, angular spot disease.

    Diseases

    Anthracnose or copper blight is a fungal disease. Actively develops at high air humidity. It begins with symptoms on leaves in the form of reddish-brownish spots with dark borders which merge into one another with time. On stems it appears as depressed ulcers. Affected areas crack during dry weather, while high humidity causes them to rot. If severely damaged, leaves wither away, plant dies.

    Cladosporiosis or olive spot disease is a fungal disease. It appears with temperature changes, long rainy periods, fog, heavy dew - in the form of dark wet spots of irregular shape, which gradually expand on the entire leaf. At the same time, jelly-like droplets can be detected on the fruit, which are replaced by lacerations. Gradually the ulcers deepen and are covered with a gray-olive-colored plaque.

    Mildew is a fungal disease. It activates at the beginning of summer with temperature and humidity fluctuations. It is determined by a whitish plaque on leaf plates, petioles, shoots, and sometimes on melon fruits.

    Angular blotch a bacterial disease. Appears at high humidity. It is recognized by small angular pustules on lower surface of leaf blades, where milk-like discharge appears if humidity is high. Drying, such secretions form a white crust. The spots then turn brown and acquire a yellow border. Afterwards, the spots fall out, forming holes in the leaves. Infested fruits become deformed and are affected by wet rot.

    Pests

    The most unpleasant pests are the spider mite and the melon aphid. But other pests can also be met: omnivorous gnawing moth, wireworm, melon fly.

    Spider mite.The naked eye cannot detect this pest, but it is easy to identify by symptoms: thin cobwebs appear in leaf axils, white dots on leaves that develop into small spots. Under severe damage leaves suddenly turn yellow, wither, and the plant dies.

    Bulberry aphid.Small yellowish or greenish sucking insect about 2 mm long. Strongly depletes plants by retarding their development.

    Caterpillar Moth Caterpillars living near soil surface cause the greatest harm. Eating stems from within, they cause plants to die. Coloration of caterpillars is gray, about 4 cm long.

    Worms (larvae of click beetle) are small shiny worms with yellow segmented body. It lives in the soil and has three pairs of thoracic legs. It mainly damages the root system of melon. In case of strong root chewing the plant can die.

    Melon fly. Has yellow body about 6 mm long and transparent wings with brown stripes. Lays eggs under skin of fruit. Damage is caused by larvae that eat melon pulp and cause it to rot. You may determine whether a fruit is infested by melon flies by its appearance: you may see small tubercles on its peel.

    Melon - secrets of growing, storing and consuming
    Cantaloupe varieties are optimal for freezing, but others will also do.

    Ways to keep melon at home

    Green melon cannot be ripened, so it is necessary to harvest it only when the fruits are fully ripe.

    Gathering ripe melon one wants to keep it as long as possible. But it is not by chance that the melon is sold at the markets only in season. Storing it causes difficulties and additional expenses, and not every variety is able to "stay on".

    The easiest way to preserve melons for winter is to freeze the flesh of the melon slices. A freezer with a temperature mode of -18 ° C is good for this purpose. In this case, the melon will freeze quickly, preserving vitamins as much as possible, and can be stored for up to 12 months. It is better to store in special bags with clasps or closed containers, in small portions, so that melon does not lose moisture and does not absorb extraneous odors.

    For more information about rules of melon and berry freezing see article 10 rules of good quality melon and berry freezing.

    When choosing variety for storage preference should be given to fruit with dense sweet flesh. The best choice here will be cantaloupe varieties, but in principle, and others will do. Many housewives freeze unsweetened melon (so as not to throw it away). Such thawed preparation, even if unsweetened, is perfect for vitamin smoothies - it thickens the drink, giving it texture. However, one should not try to keep in the freezer whole fruits or their halves, in this case the freezing of flesh is uneven, which affects the quality significantly after defrosting.

    For making useful "milk" from melon seeds you can also freeze the melon seeds. To do this, they should be separated into a separate bag and placed in the freezer.

    Many people have a question: can a melon be kept in the refrigerator without freezing? In the cold the melon gradually becomes fibrous and watery. For this reason, even cut open, it is not desirable to put it in a low temperature environment, but it is better to keep it at room temperature. However, it can still be kept in the fridge for a while. For this purpose, the cut fruit should be placed in a container with an airtight lid - in this condition it will keep for two days.

    A whole melon can be kept on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator for just over a week. But longer periods of storage in these conditions are undesirable, since ethylene accumulates in the flesh of the melon at low temperature.

    You can also store melon simply in the apartment, in a cool shady place. For this purpose it should be completely whole and undamaged, and preferably of the ripe varieties.

    The smell of the melon will help you to understand how ripe it is. If it has a strong smell, it means it is ready for consumption. If it is weak and has a springy nose - the flesh is still hard, you should give it to ripen.

    To preserve melon in the basement, it should be placed further from other vegetables - beets, potatoes, as it strongly absorbs foreign smell, and put on soft bedding so that fruits do not touch each other and the walls of the room. Do not place melon next to apples as it accelerates its ageing because apples produce ethylene.

    Straw, sand, grain, ashes, sawdust are used as soft bedding. Softening material is more convenient to place in boxes, deepening the melon down where the stalk was. The "spot" left from the stalk is covered with a layer of paraffin for better preservation. Every month the melons are inspected, discarding the rotten ones. © Oksana Gula

    Melon - secrets of growing, storing and consuming
    Melon "Titovka"
    Melon - secrets of growing, storing and consuming
    Melon "Kolkhoznitsa". © uasemena

    The most common varieties

    "Sybarite's Dream" is an early variety for a short summer (50-55 days). Fruits are small (weighing about 400 g), elongated, with a striped green color. The flesh is white, crisp, with a honeyed taste and aroma. It is not sick, fruiting abundantly, until frost.

    "Titovka" refers to ultra-ripe (55-70 days). Fruits with a thin rind, yellow, orange or yellow-orange color. The flesh is white, dense with a fragrant aroma. Keeps well. Suitable for the south and middle belt.

    "Cinderella" - early-ripening variety (60 days), suitable for short summer conditions. Fruits are rounded, yellow, covered with convex mesh. The flesh is white, juicy, has a rich flavor. Sort is resistant to temperature changes, diseases and pests, but poorly tolerates storage and transportation. Fruits are ball-shaped, orange-yellow, covered with mesh. The flesh is sweet, fragrant, light yellow. Lays well. Suitable for the south and middle belt.

    "Pineapple" - medium-early (70-80 days). Fruits are rounded elongated, have a deep orange color, closer to a brown hue. The flesh is light pink, juicy with a sugary taste and light pineapple aroma. Suitable for the south and central strip.

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