Each growing season we like to experiment with a few varieties of produce to see what might grow well here in our area of Tucson. While there are certain things I certainly won’t even try or bother with like bananas, it’s fun to test out items like rhubarb, different lettuces, or the Charentais melon (pictured).
The Charentais is a famous French melon that you won’t see in groceries or mass markets especially here in the United States unless a small grower supplies it to a local farmers market. The reason being is that these melons do not travel well. It is a true French cantaloupe developed around 1920 in the Poitou-Charentes region. I purchased our seed from Baker Creek Heirloom which is one of a few retailers we purchase our regular seed stock from.
This melon is not very big, about the size of a large grapefruit and just enough for two people. Our vines are growing out of a large metal tub, climbing up an obelisk trellis and now attaching to the fencing behind. They’ve been in full sun, the numerous little blooms attracting bees on a daily basis. Once those first melons got a bit heavy I used old pantyhose to create hammocks. The pantyhose material allows for stretch and air circulation.
Taking advice from a French friend of ours, we knew to wait till the melons have a soft end and slip right off the vine. The aroma is like no other we’ve ever experienced. The best way I can describe it is that of a highly concentrated cantaloupe essence with notes of tropical fruit. You just keep wanting to smell it; it’s truly addictive.
Our first taste was this week. It had a light cantaloupe flavor but with almost a tropical liquor edge to it. The finish was one neither of us could explain. It wasn’t bad, it was just hard to place. The 2nd one is sitting on the kitchen hutch right now waiting for us to devour it later tonight. It is making the kitchen smell heavenly! And yes, I am saving seeds for next year.