During the first week of October, after several friends and neighbors had taken what they wanted from our little pumpkin patch on the far side of the garden, my brother, Andy, was checking to see if there were any left worth saving and tossing the rest outside our growing space to keep unwanted “ volunteers” from sprouting come tilling time next spring.
Usually, when seeds come up from squash, cucumbers, melons, sweet corn, etc. that were left lying in the garden from the year before, it’s best to chop them out because whatever they produce is not apt to look nor taste much like the hybrid from which they originated. It has taken me decades to become heartless to most volunteer vegetable plants because, in the long run, letting them grow is usually akin to hoeing weeds.
At one point last September, we had piles of rotting squash, cantaloupes and cucumbers smelling so badly that a flock of buzzards started hanging around the garden to see what was dead. But even buzzards won’t eat rotten cucumbers. Still, it’s far better to get them out of your growing space before they leave behind a bunch of useless seeds that you’ll have to contend with if you put out a garden next year.
The big pile of rotting fruits and vegetables we tossed away last summer eventually stopped stinking and dried out. Over the last three weeks, a steady stream of chipmunks, fox squirrels and blue jays have made good use of the residue.
Apparently dehydrated rotten cantaloupe tastes far better than it smelled before it dried out. And who’da thought that chipmunks love cucumber seeds? I am no longer worried about a mass of unwanted vegetation coming up behind the old rock wall where all this stuff has been lying. I’m pretty sure there will not be a seed left to sprout after the bluejays do a final inspection.
Anyway, Andy was kicking around in the knee-deep orchard grass and morning glories that covered the vine section of our garden, looking for anything that might be capable of leaving volunteer seeds, when his foot connected with something solid.
Expecting to find a hidden pumpkin, he uncovered a 12+ pound striped watermelon that was wellcamouflaged in the weeds and grass. Somehow one of the two watermelon vines we’d planted on a lark had snuck its way among the pumpkin patch and gone unnoticed, largely because its fruit was nearly the same color as pumpkin leaves.
I say 12+ pounds because it was somewhat larger and felt considerably heavier than a 10-pound sack of cane sugar Loretta had lying on the counter right beside it. It also provided an interesting contrast lying there between several different colored apples, a couple of huge red sweet potatoes, several late tomatoes and a bowl of multi-colored bell peppers. I’m not apt to be remembered for my impeccable taste in kitchen décor but I thought it was pretty and Loretta must have thought so too because it lay there for over three weeks before she got around to slicing it late last week.
Andy and I need not have worried about the seeds coming up, had he not found it, because it was one of those varieties that are supposed to be nearly seedless and darn near was. The lady who gave us the plants said it had to have a pollinator of a different variety, so she gave us a sugar baby plant to go with it. The nearly black, soccer-ball- sized sugar babies fell far short of living up to their name and we have forgotten what she called the striped one but it was sweet as honey. It was/ still is one of the best tasting watermelons I’ve ever stuck a tooth in. We’re still eating on it.
It might have tasted even better if we had sliced it the week Andy brought it in. You may recall that daytime high temperatures were hovering around 90 degrees during the first week of October and a good cold watermelon might have made an appropriate refreshment. Someone posted on Facebook that the daytime temperature went from 90 to 55 like it had just seen a state trooper. But it’s only in the 40s at this writing and I just had a slice of October watermelon. It didn’t feel quite right but it tasted mighty good!