By William Terry Kelley
University of Georgia
Of course, cantaloupes are common and widely grown here. But there are many melons related to these that you may not have heard much about.
The melons in the Cucumis melo L. (Reticulatus group) include our common cantaloupes and charentais and galia melons. All of the melons that belong to the melo species are called muskmelons. But not all muskmelons are cantaloupes. The Inodorus group includes honeydew, Christmas, casaba, Crenshaw and canary melons.
Casaba fruits aren't netted like cantaloupes, but have deep wrinkles. The skin color may vary by variety, which include "Golden Beauty," "MaryGold," "Winter Pineapple" and "Santa Claus."
These melons have various shapes and sizes. The flesh is thick and either white, yellow or orange. Casabas don't have the musky odor of a cantaloupe or the sweetness of a honeydew.
Crenshaw melons are casaba crosses, so they're close relatives of this type.
Charentais melons have been called the finest melon in taste, texture and fragrance. They're globe-shaped and have either a slightly netted or gray-green, waxy rind with dark green sutures.
These melons have a deep orange flesh with a spicy aroma. They're usually sweeter than cantaloupes but have a soft flesh that shortens the shelf life.
Among the varieties, "Robinson" has a good flavor and pale orange flesh. "Fidji" has a pale orange flesh that's also very sweet. "Figaro" is said to have a hint of caramel with a full, musky flavor. "Romulus" and "Escrito" are also available.
Oriental, crisp-flesh melons have captured the interest of many in the South in recent years. The sweet type of these are oblong to round with rinds from yellow to green or white.
The fruits are small, and most have a white, crisp flesh. Varieties include "Sprite," "Gold Star," "Yellow Queen," "New Century" and "Jade Flower."
Galia melons are basically green-fleshed cantaloupes. The rind will turn dark green to golden yellow at peak harvest time. The green flesh is much softer than that of a honeydew, but it's firmer than the orange flesh of the cantaloupe.
They're typically very fragrant, but they have a short shelf life. "Gallicum" is probably the most popular of these varieties. But "Golan 329" and "Sunny Gal" have shown promise.
Juan Canary melons are grown in hot, dry climates. They have attractive fruit with a smooth rind that turns golden yellow as the fruits ripen. The flesh is firm and light green to white. Sometimes there's a tinge of orange near the fruit cavity.
Japanese melons are usually grown in greenhouses in Japan and command a high price there. These melons are slightly oval and very sweet. They have an extremely well netted, green rind. The flesh is usually green, very sweet and firm. "Emerald Jewel" and "Emerald Sweet" are popular varieties.
Piel de Sapo, or Christmas melons, are football-shaped. They have yellow to green, mottled rinds and a very pale orange or light green flesh. They don't have sutures. These melons take longer to mature than any of the others and are traditionally grown in hot, dry climates. "Sancho" is one variety.
Ananas is an oval-to-long, netted, nonsutured, yellow melon with white flesh. Green when immature, it turns yellow to burnt orange at maturity. The flesh is fragrant, sweet and juicy.
The prospect of growing these melons for shipping in Georgia isn't great. Many don't resist diseases well or tolerate our hot, humid conditions, and many have a relatively short shelf-life.
However, you can try them in the garden, especially in the middle to northern parts of the state. You might try them at the dinner table, too, if you see them at the market.
(Terry Kelley is an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
(Terry Kelley is a former University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)