October 1, 2007

Moon and Stars watermelon

Moon and stars watermelon, La Ceiba, HondurasMoon and stars watermelon

Moon and Stars watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is named for the large and small yellow blotches on the rind and the leaves of the plant (moons and stars). It is an open pollinated Amish heirloom variety of watermelon that at one time was thought to be extinct. Moon and Stars was grown by American gardeners sometime prior to the 1900's and was listed in seed catalogs up until the 1920's after which time it disappeared from the the market.

Moon and Stars watermelon, HondurasAfter a search begun in the 1970's, a farmer in Missouri was found to be growing these watermelons in 1980. The Moon and Stars melon was featured in a 1982 issue of Mother Earth News resulting in a resurgence of its popularity. Several seed catalogs now list the Moon and Stars watermelon, including Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Seed Savers Exchange, and Pinetree Garden Seeds, where I obtained mine. The seeds now are also available in Australia and the UK and probably other parts of the world.

Several strains of Moon and Stars have emerged over the years of seed saving. All have the deep, dark green rind and small yellow stars, but some lack the "moon." One type is oblong and another is round, both with brown seeds. Another variety has yellow flesh and white seeds.

Although the days-to-harvest is listed at 95-105 days in various seed catalogs, mine took exactly 120 days from the day of planting the seed. It always surprises me that most crops take as long or longer here in the tropics, especially a heat-loving plant like watermelon.

A GardenWeb discussion showed that several growers had the same experience that I did with almost a stopping of growth for a time between the plant forming its first several leaves and the starting of vining. One person noted a second crop after cutting back the vine after the first crop. Interesting! I should definitely try that here in Honduras since our growing season is year round.

Moon and stars watermelon, HondurasAs you can see from this photo, our melons don't have the bright pinkish-red flesh that Moon and Stars is supposed to have. I think that the pale flesh may have resulted from too much water (from rain, not from overwatering) but it may be from lack of fertilizer. It also had a hard white core which I'm pretty sure is a result of too much water.

Moon and Stars melons can be as large as 25-40 pounds (11-18 kg.), they say. My first one weighed 28 lbs. (13 k.) but these were much smaller, maybe 6-8 lbs. (3-4 k.). Once again, I mixed compost in the planting hill but I didn't fertilize at all. I'm such a neglectful gardener. I also trimmed the vines the first two times I grew Moon and Stars and did not this year. That could be part of the reason for smaller melons this year with the plant using too much of its energy to produce foliage.

Moon and Stars watermelon seedsNext time I need to plant it a little earlier so that it is ripe before the start of rainy season. The flavor was pretty good despite the pale color. I'm saving seeds and will keep planting this one as it seems to be less attractive to the cucumber beetles and aphids and remarkably resistant to the powdery mildew and wilt which has been affecting my other melons. I like the idea of continuing an old heirloom variety and by saving seeds it may develop traits which make it more adaptable to our tropical weather here in La Ceiba.
Newer posts Older posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...