Grit Blogs > Red Pine Mountain

Mutated Melons

A Red Pine Mountain LogoTo share embarassing stories or not?  Oh, well, I have nothing to lose so here is my latest cautionary tale of a newbie gardener.

Every January, seed catalogs start arriving, and for the past three years, their arrival has been the highlight of my long winter. I spend hours deciding just what seeds to plant. Of course, I’m searching for heirloom varieties, but I’m also drawn to anything that produces in colors considered unusual. I want my garden to be as eccentric as I am.

At long last, my seeds arrive!  Dozens of seed packets including carrots in all colors of the rainbow, pumpkins in assorted hues and this year for the first time, melons as well. Small, personal size, white honeydew melons I was intending to plant in the greenhouse. That is until Mountain Man intervened.

“Don’t start your seeds this year. We might not be here all summer.” Mountain Man is determined to move us to Missouri. He doesn’t realize I’m adamantly praying each and every minute of the day for us to stay put.  While I love the people of Missouri who are some of the kindest people on earth, I also cherish our life on our Vermont mountaintop farm.

But if Mountain Man wants to move then move we will, so I followed his instructions. I threw all my seed packets into a drawer and there they stayed forgotten as we made plans to leave.

But my prayers were answered. We decided to stay in Vermont. “For the moment,” as Mountain Man likes to remind me. Nevertheless, the decision to stay was made too late in the spring for me to start most of my seedlings.

Mountain Man came home with several young tomato plants, pepper plants and some cucumber seeds. “You still have plenty of time to plant cucumber seeds.”  I tossed the traditional cucumber seeds he purchased into my overflowing seed drawer and got busy working on the soil in the greenhouse. 

Soil done, time to start planting.  I figured if I had time to plant cucumber seeds, then I should have time to experiment with my mini melons.  I grabbed seed packets from the drawer and started planting. Melons here, Mountain Man's cucumbers there . Now all I needed to do was tend my garden and wait for the seedlings to sprout.

Soon cucumber vines were flourishing but no mini melons appeared. And as my cucumbers put out flowers and continued to grow to the sky, I gave up on my melons making an appearance. Oh, well, it was worth a try. 

Weeks went by. “Are your cucumbers ready yet?” Mountain Man would ask me as I carried in tomatoes and peppers by the armful. 

“No, they’re growing but they aren’t big enough yet and they are definitely not ripe.”

A few more weeks passed. “What’s going on with the cucumbers? They have to be ready by now.” said Mountain Man.

“No, they aren’t ripe. They are still white. I’m waiting for them to turn colors.”

“White? Go pick one and bring it to me, and let me see what’s going on.” I run out to the greenhouse and pick a white cucumber and bring it to Mountain Man.  It's a strange looking thing, definitely white and just a little bit round.  Not like the robust green, long cucumbers of last year.

 “Never anything like this before."  Mountain Man says. “What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything. Just planted the seeds you gave me. That’s all. Well, I did put some melons next to them but the melons never grew. Do you think they mutated with the cucumbesr?  Maybe I grew a cucomelon? Maybe I started some new strain?” Visions of fame floated through my head.

Mountain Man shook his head at my idea of a cucomelon. He knew better than to explain the ins and outs of plant breeding. My eyes would cross, my brain would shut off, and I’d be thinking of horses, geese, mountain streams.  And besides why not a cucomelon?  Stranger things have happened here.

Mountain Man cut the white object. “Looks good.” He offered me a piece. “No, you eat it first. I’ll go after you.” Eat it he did. “It’s delicious.” I gathered up the courage, took a bite of my albino cucomelon. Waited for something terrible to happen to my stomach but nothing did, and yes, it was delicious.

“I don’t know what you did but these are wonderful. Are there more out there?” Mountain Man asked.

“Yes, we have dozens of them."  Still thrilled I might have invented a new strain of cucomelon, I rushed to the computer to do an image search to see if anyone else had done this or if I was the first.

Oh, no. There it was on Burpee’s no less where I had ordered my seeds. The “White Wonder Cucumber,” an heirloom variety invented in 1893. Uh oh, I bet I know what I did in my never ending search for exotic colored veggies.

Mountain Man is still in the kitchen extolling my marvelous white mystery veggie. I hate to break the news. “Oh, Mountain Man, I think I know what happened. I think I made a mistake when I did the planting.”

“Go out to the greenhouse and find the seed packet. It will still be there. I know you won’t have thrown it away. That would have actually required you to pick it up and bring it back to the house, and I know you. You didn’t do that.” He’s right. We don’t have trash pickup here. Coming to grips with the fact there is no trash pickup in the country has been difficult for me, and I never, ever bring even more trash back into the house.

I find the seed packet and there it is in black and white plain as day. "Burpee’s White Wonders."  Woops! There go my dreams of cucomelons.

Is there a purpose to this story?  I have learned next year, if I grab for seed packets, I'll make sure I wear my glasses so I can see the fine print. 

Mountain Man, Mountain Woman and their zoo can always be found at http://redpinemountain.com.

mountain woman
9/23/2011 3:28:59 PM

Hi Dave, I'd love to see a picture of your ugly lettuce. Must be interesting but as long as it tastes good! If we do this move, we'll rent the house and Carl will go back and forth to work in the woods here. I've had some more adventures I'm going to get around to putting on my blog sooner or later having to do with brittle bones and padded bottoms. Oh, well, at least life is never dull. Thanks for visiting me!!!!!


nebraska dave
9/22/2011 11:27:18 AM

Sara, you are always a treat to read. There's never a dull moment with you, Mountain Man Carl, and the zoo. How life has changed for you and Carl over the last couple years. A move to Missouri with all your animals would be a miracle for sure. It would mean you'd be closer to your sister. I can see how you would not like to leave the beautiful land in Vermont but you would have more time to garden and enjoy the spring and fall weather. There's pros and cons for both places. If you move to Missouri what would become of the land in Vermont? As for strange plants in the garden, I planted what the package says is Mesclun Lettuce in the fall garden plot. It is the ugliest lettuce I've ever seen. I didn't even think it was lettuce until I looked at the picture on the package and discovered it looked just like the picture. I can see why no one bought it in the spring and it was the only package on the rack a month ago when I decided to plant a fall garden. Next year I'll know to buy the fall seeds in the spring with the rest of the garden seeds. This first time fall garden has been a learning experience for sure. Have a great day in the garden.


mountain woman
9/20/2011 3:34:40 PM

Cindy, makes me feel so much better you have cucurbits and mystery vines. I thought I might be the only one. It's incredibly beautiful here too. Just beyond gorgeous. Thanks for visiting me!!!


cindy murphy
9/20/2011 6:53:22 AM

Too funny, Mountain Woman. Very cute story. I never know what I'm getting with my cucurbits. I just throw left-over pumpkins, gourds, squash, and whatevers into the compost heap. Inevitably a volunteer vine or 10 will sprout up the following year, and I let it grow, anticipating the surprise of what it'll produce. I've gotten some interesting (weird) looking things with this method; the majority of them most likely inedible, but pretty enough for fall decoration. I just don't have the space to plant any "normal" vining vegetables. Enjoy your day there; it's turning out to be a gorgeous fall here.