Since our mission is to find fruit varieties that are adaptable to growing in New Mexico it seemed logical to go to the first agriculturists, The Native Americans.  In the fall of 2007 I read in the Albuquerque Journal about a gentleman from San Felipe Pueblo who sold melons at the Farmer’s Market in Bernalillo.  I made a trip to the market to see him and to buy some melons.  I asked him what variety they were and he said “Don’t Know” . When asked if he knew the type he shrugged his shoulders and said “Melons”. After some discussion I found that his family had grown melons at the pueblo for generations, handed down father to son and this was the “Pueblo” melon.  They were very pricey in my opinion. $5 for a baseball size about $6 for a store size and $10-$12 for large.  He told me how he always sold out and this appeared to be the case as people were buying.  I got a medium one and took it home to sample.  It was ok,- good,  but not as good as what you could get in the grocery store and looked to be a little underripe.  Apparently the Journal article made his business boom and he now sold high and all he could get, so I assumed he picked it a little early.  Unfortunately melons will not ripen off the vine like tomatoes or say, European pears. 

However this got me thinking and doing some research. There are 19 Pueblos in New Mexico and each one has developed its own agriculture and varieties of vegetables which are obviously suited to the elevation, watering technique and specific growing conditions there.  It seems that they had already done our work for us, all we needed was to procure some seed and grow them out.  

Native Seed Search is an organization dedicated to preserving the agriculural heritage seeds of the Southwest.  We chose 4 varieties to grow Corrales, Ojo Caliente,  San Juan and Santa Domingo casaba. See catalog pictures below.

Corrales Melon

Corrales Melon

Ojo Caliente Melon

Ojo Caliente Melon

San Juan Melon

San Juan Melon

Santo Domingo Melon

Santo Domingo Melon

As is often the case, the descriptions don’t match the final result. NSS is better than most at providing accuracy and not glorifying a type.  On 9/25/10 we picked the best example of each type and tested for size, productivity and mainly taste.  I am listing the catalog description along with our description.

 
 

Corrales Melons

Corrales Melons

 

Corrales-A new growout of a 1993 collection from Corrales, NM. Typical oblong native melons with ribs and smooth skin. Dark green fruit turn yellow when ripe. Sweet and juicy.  As you can see there is some variability in appearance at same date and age of fruit, not too bad.  NOT sweet and juicy, at best bland and juicy but pretty consistent in size and vines look and grow well. We will not grow this one again

Ojo Caliente- Originally obtained from a farmer in northern New Mexico. the oval fruits are smooth-skinned and can weigh 5-7 pounds. Pale green flesh with a tinge of orange is sweet and juicy. Harvest ripe fruits when bright yellow and aromatic.   This melon is not very productive and actually was extremely bitter. I have never tasted a melon like it, we had to rinse out our mouths several times it was so bad and it almost ended our melon tasting adventure.  Definite NO GROW.

Santo Domingo Casaba- Originally collected in Santo Domingo Pueblo, this is a casaba-type melon. The skin is slightly wrinkled, the flesh is white to light green. Sweet and tasty.  This melon was pretty productive and hardy with the fruits being much more consistent in size and appearance than the other types and very large seeds.  Unfortunately it has a poor taste.  Will not grow again

San Juan- A prolific honeydew-type with smooth, light green skin and light to deep lime-colored flesh. Vines are somewhat compact and desert hardy.  Prolific no, compact and hardy yes. I notice their description says nothing about taste yet we rate it’s taste as OK, nothing special and no better than store bought ,maybe not as good.  If you have a lot of space and want to experiment then this would be the one.  However there are much better melons out there to enjoy. 

In summary our opinion is not to waste time growing any of the Native melons.  They are inconsistent and seemed to have been probably cross pollinated with squash.  The hypothesis was good but the results were poor.

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