Specialty Melon Evaluation in Southern Indiana – Vegetable Crops Hotline

Specialty Melon Evaluation in Southern Indiana

Melon is a crop with diverse fruit characteristics. They have different color, shape, rind pattern, texture, and flavor. In major food stores, cantaloupe and honeydew melons may be the only melon types sold, while the fantastic experience of melon consumption is far more than that. This created an opportunity for selling unique melon fruit at local farmers market and with a potentially higher price. It is not difficult to find the different melon cultivars in seed catalogs, but it is not always clear whether these unique types of melons are suitable for growing in Indiana. In this article, we will discuss our experience of growing specialty melons in southern Indian.  

  1. Canary melon 

Canary type melon Brilliant and Amy were included in the evaluation. The two cultivars are both grown successfully in our trials, great quality fruit, and high marketability. Their sugar content is higher than most melon cultivars in the evaluation, flesh is firmer than typical eastern-type cantaloupe. Fruit size is similar to large eastern cantaloupe, slightly oval-shaped; smooth skin with no sutures. Brilliant is slightly larger than Amy. Fruit do not slip from the vines; external color is the indication of ripeness. In our trials, they were harvested about 10 days later than first harvest of eastern cantaloupe. If harvest the fruit before the rind turns bright golden yellow, it is not as sweet. 

  1. Honeydew melon

The most unique honeydew type melon in our evaluation is Snow Leopard. The small fruit has light green specks on a creamy white background, a great display. The plant is productive, each produces 5-6 fruit over 4-week period. The fruit has high marketability and great sugar content.  

Another unique honeydew type melon is Honey Orange. External fruit appearance is similar to a typical honeydew melon but internal fruit color is orangeLike other honeydew melons, it has high sugar content and a slightly firmer texture than eastern cantaloupe. However, we rarely found fruit with internal color as bright orange as that shown in seed catalog.  

  1. Unique cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is the most familiar melon type by consumers in the United States, while it has many variations. We evaluated two unique cantaloupe cultivars in our trials, one is Sugar Cube, another is Sheba. Sugar Cube is a personal-size cantaloupe, slightly larger than a big soft ball. Each plant produces 3-4 fruit. However, due to the small fruit size, yield of this cultivar by weight was very low. Sugar Cube has a low percentage of rotten fruit, good marketability. Another great character about Sugar Cube is the very high sugar content and soft flesh as typical eastern cantaloupe has.  

Sheba is a cantaloupe melon but with green flesh. This may surprise many consumers when they cut open the fruit. Sheba has always been one of the cultivars that has the highest sugar content; the fresh, juicy, sweet taste can be a great experience. The downside of Sheba is the relatively low yield comparing to the dominate cantaloupe cultivars grown in our area.  

  1. Santa Claus/ Piel de Sapo melon 

Piel de Sapo means ‘frog skin’ in Spanish, which describes the rough mottled rind of this melon type. This melon type also called Santa Claus melon or Christmas melon, which reflects the long shelf-life, until Christmas. This melon indeed has longer shelf-life than most cantaloupe, but we did not evaluate if the shelf-life is exceptionally long. Lambkin and King Show were included in our trials. The fruit is smaller than eastern cantaloupe but larger than Snow Leopard. They are not as sweet as honeydew type or cantaloupe melons. 

  1. Tuscan melon

Tuscan melon has the characteristically segmented skin. Three cultivarsNapoli, Da Vinci and Eastern Crush were evaluated in our trials. Napoli ripened about two weeks earlier than the other cultivars, and with a higher yield. However, fruit of Napoli may crack along skin segment in the field. This was also observed on Eastern Crush. Da Vinci seems is more tolerant to the fruit cracking.  

  1. Charentais melon 

Charentais melon is a very popular melon type in Europe. We evaluated several cultivars of Charentais melon in both high tunnel and open field, but almost all of them experienced fruit cracking at the bottom. This melon type may not be suitable for growing in our area with current production practices 

  1. Galia melon and Ananas melon 

Both galia and ananas melons have netted skin, fruit slip from vines when they ripen. Arava (glia melon) has green, soft and juicy flesh. Although it does not stand out as a variety with high sugar content, the unique tropical aroma can be very attractive to consumers. Similar with San Juan (Ananas), which has a creamy-white, soft, and highly aromatic flesh. Both melon types can produce outstanding quality fruit, but harvesting them at peak quality stage is difficult. Fruit detaching from vines happens almost overnight. Sugar content drops significantly as fruit becomes over ripe. Galia melon and Ananas melon may be grown by melon lovers in home gardens or very small-scale commercial production, but they are not suitable for large-scale commercial production in our area.  

  1. Korean melon 

Korean melon Torpedo is the smallest melon (average fruit weight 1.1 lb) in our trial. Each plant can produce up to 10 fruit and with a long harvest window. The Korean melon has the crispiest texture that is reflected by the highest flesh firmness value. Korean melons usually have a very thin skin that may crack. But this defect was seldom observed on Torpedo. Korean melon is one of the melon types that may not be accepted by everyone, but it definitely has a role for certain consumer groups.  

  1. Sweet-Sour melon  

Lastly, I want to discuss the most unique melon cultivar in our trials, Melemon. It has a sweet-sour taste. Plant of Melemon is productive, each plant produces 2 to 3 fruit with fruit size similar to large cantaloupes. The fruit has light green to yellow external color, and with a few light nettings that show up when fruit ripen. Internal color is white. Flesh firmness of Melemon is similar to eastern cantaloupe. Melemon may not be accepted by all consumers, but surely will be loved by consumers who are looking for unusual fruit and cuisine. 

Specialty melon types

Specialty melon types

This project is financially supported by the USDA, Indiana State Department of Agriculture
Specialty Crop Block Grant Program: A337-19-SCBG-18-004 and USDA-NIFA-SCRI-2017-51181-26834.

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