Charentais, yellow, smooth, ribbed, there are many varieties more or less sweet but all delicious.
Where do the melons come from?
Melons belong to the family of cucurbits. A priori, they come to us from intertropical Africa, and this although this origin is discussed. There are nevertheless traces of this culture five centuries BC in the Nile Delta, from where their production gradually gained Greece under the name of "Pepon", in other words "cooked by the sun", then Italy. These first melons, whose weight did not exceed 50 g, were used as a condiment. It was in the 15th century that the French rediscovered the melon - already mentioned by Charlemagne but which seems to have disappeared in the meantime - which will quickly become one of the favorite fruits of the court of France and this thanks to the work of Jean-Baptiste of Quintinie, which acclimatized them in the kitchen garden of king Louis XIV.
What are the main varieties?
There are more than 650 varieties. However, do not dream, we only have half a dozen of them for our gardens. Among the best known are: Cantalou with orange flesh also called "Charentais", Galia with emerald green flesh, embroidered melon so called because of the appearance of its skin dressed in embroidery, Spanish melon in shape of a bright yellow rugby ball, the Canary Yellow, the Honeydew or "honeydew melon", which has a greenish pulp and can weigh up to 2 kg. In garden centers, you will find in the form of seeds or plants, varieties such as the santon melon, the Jerac hybrid F1 (obtaining Clause), the Eleanor hybrid F1 (obtaining Vilmorin) of the Charentais type. Their hybridization making them resistant to fusarium. The hybrid Caesar F1 (obtaining Clause) is an embroidered melon that develops freely and requires almost no pruning. Charentais-style Galia F1 or Ardor F1 melons (Willemse catalog) are excellent conservation. The sweet melon from Tours is a very old variety of embroidered type, semi-early very sweet which is cultivated easily.
Do melons grow in any climate?
After centuries of acclimatization, melons can grow in almost any climate - with varying degrees of success depending on the amount of sunshine. However, certain varieties such as Canary Yellow melons, those with greenish white flesh or Cavaillon with pink flesh, are reserved for the Mediterranean regions or in the Southwest.
How does the melon develop?
Melons are runner sarmenting plants, equipped with tendrils, which can be carried out, either in creeping or climbing forms. From May to September, the liana is covered with yellow flowers. Male flowers appear first. Oval or round fruits are then born. Depending on the variety, the skin of the fruit can be ribbed, embroidered, plump, smooth or bumpy and its color covers the whole palette from yellow to green without forgetting white.
How do we grow it?
Melons are grown by seed. The heart of the fruit contains oblong, flat and yellowish seeds which can be sown in a greenhouse in the case of a so-called "hasty" crop, ie directly in the ground from May. In "early" culture place two seeds in a peat bucket in a greenhouse heated to 20/25 ° C. When the two cotyledons of each seed are clearly visible, transplant each plant in an individual pot by pushing the stem in earth to the cotyledons. Leave the pots under the frame until the plants have developed 3 or 4 leaves, they can then be transplanted. Cultivation in the open ground must be prepared by burying a bed of manure covered with potting soil. The sowing is then done in "poquet", namely 4 to 5 seeds placed in each hole, at the rate of a plantation every 50 cm because the melons need space to develop. Shelter your plantations under a plastic tunnel. When the plants begin to have multiple leaves, remove the weakest of them.
How to prune your plants?
Pruning is done by pinching as soon as the plane begins to have several leaves. Just pinch the plane above the first two leaves which will each give birth to a new stem. When the latter have 4 leaves, pinch them again, keeping only three leaves after each fruit. Remove the leaves covering the young melons so that they are sunny.
What care should they take and what illnesses can they suffer from?
This fruit vegetable abhors to rest on damp soil. Install it on a mulch of clay balls, or on a terracotta plate, which will accumulate the heat it needs and protect it from damp climbs, vectors of diseases. If its water needs are relatively high, always water it with the foot using a watering can without apple and never on the leaves. As soon as the first fruits form, spread a rapidly absorbable powdered fertilizer based on potassium and phosphate which will allow better development of the latter, at a rate of 80 g per m2. Melons are sensitive to certain fungi such as powdery mildew and downy mildew which cause rotting, Fusarium wilt, and the mosaic virus which is transmitted by aphid bites. As far as possible, it is preferable to acquire grafted plants from the garden center. More resistant, these plants are naturally protected and allow less favorable growing conditions. To prevent disease, spray Bordeaux porridge on young vines. Use a natural contact insecticide to eliminate aphids that could contaminate them.
When to harvest the melons?
The first harvests are made in June / July for "early" crops, or even earlier if you have grown under glass. For outdoor crops, you will have to wait until August and September. When the leaves and rind of the fruit start to turn yellow, this is a sign that your melons are starting to ripen. Melons of the Cavaillon or Charentais type are only really ripe when the stem - also called the peduncle - which holds them to the liana begins to crack. Smooth varieties, for example, should have 10 quarters clearly separated by a darker green or blue line. If you only count 8 or 9, it is best to let the melons ripen for a few more days. The melons must be picked at the end of the day. Indeed, after a day spent in the sun, their sugar content is higher than in the morning.