Saturday, May 21, 2011

Casaba Melons

This afternoon I planted casaba melons in a big empty patch in the middle of our orchard. This is the second year that I have planted casabas---they were such a favorite with General Bidwell that I had to try them. I would have planted them sooner, but the weather has been too cool up until now for the seeds to sprout.

I got my seed from Seed Savers Exchange.  I don't know of any other catalog that carries it. They are wonderful melons, juicy and delicious, with a heady aroma, but they take a long time to grow, which is probably why they are not favorites anymore.

Casaba melons are native to Turkey. Bidwell's original seed was sent to him by the Department of Agriculture, who knew how he liked to experiment with new crops. The melons were such an outstanding success that Bidwell decided to devote 10 acres to them the following year.

Casabas take a lot of water, and my husband asked me how Bidwell managed to grow them during our dry Chico summers. The answer comes from his ranch foreman George Moses Gray.  He recounts:

"The next year, 1882, we planted ten acres of casabas on newly cleared ground on land between the flume and Humboldt Road. . . The ground was very rich and we had plenty of water from the flume and of all the melons I ever saw growing those were the best."

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