Melon Jam (Preserving Melon, Red Seeded Citron) – 7 HEIRLOOM Seeds
Citron Melon – Homemade Jam’s Best Friend
This ancestor to our modern watermelon goes by several names that hint at its best uses – jam melon, preserve melon, or pie melon. At first glance, the citron melon looks like a small, round watermelon, but when cut into, you’ll find a pale green to white, dense, crunchy flesh dotted with shocking red seeds scattered throughout with a very mild to almost absent flavour. Sometimes people taste a young, not-quite-ripe honeydew, others taste cucumber, and still, others taste the young pumpkin.
The lack of flavour from a fresh-picked fruit might surprise you, especially since it looks so much like the beloved watermelon. Its real value is not in the fresh taste but in what it can do for jams, jellies, marmalades, and pickles.
Citron melon has naturally high concentrations of pectin, the traditional gelling agent for jams, jellies, and marmalades, as well as fruit pies and cobblers. The high pectin content makes them perfect for candied fruit for fruitcakes and desserts. After cooking, the natural flavours become more apparent.
Because of their tough rinds, melons are harvested in late autumn, and some kept aside in a cool place until just after Winter, to be made into the last preserves of the year.
Seed germination is strong, and production is quite prolific – 50 melons from a single large, sprawling plant is not uncommon. Most people prune the first half-dozen flowers, then let the next set pollinate for however many melons are needed, then the rest of the flowers are also pruned. This prevents being overrun by melons!
The French have long since figured out the easiest and most delicious way to work with what they call ‘melons d’Espagne’ - translating as Spanish melons, but meaning ‘jam melons’. In the Médoc region of France, just north of Bordeaux, these melons are widely grown solely to make fruit confitures after harvesting in early November.
In fact, locally crafted sweet preserves made with ‘jam melons’ are highly valued – it is an honour to receive a jar of fruit confiture from outside the family.
These melons create the most delicious homemade jams after peeling, de-seeding and chopping. Vanilla and sugar are added to a bowl of chopped melon, or ginger, mandarin, melon, and sugar as another option. Left overnight to soak and mingle the flavours, they turn into a syrupy fruit mash that is gently simmered for about 45 minutes, turning a gorgeous translucent yellow and filling the house with the scent of sugar and spices.
As you might expect from a melon that grows exceptionally well in the Sahara and is used as a water source during droughts, citron melon is hardy – shrugging off the heat and dry conditions with aplomb. Despite this, better flavour results from moderate moisture during seedling growth and after flowering when the fruits are growing. Harvest the fruit when the vine starts to die back.
Jam Melons are warm-season annual vines and need a long warm season to mature. Jam Melon needs plenty of room to grow as it sends out long vines.
Start them early if you can. In temperate areas sow October - November, after all, the danger of frost; subtropical areas sow September - November; in tropical areas sow April - July, during the dry season. Sow directly where it is to grow 10 - 20mm deep, or start early in individual seedling pots; in cool areas, bottom heat will be required. Seed germinates best at a soil temperature of 21 - 35° C. Seed will germinate in 7 - 14 days. Soil should be fertile, well-drained, with a pH of 6 - 6.5.
Prepare your soil with compost and well-rotted manure; deep digging is beneficial. The soil needs to be well-drained.
Space rows 1.5 m apart with 1m between plants on raised mounds. Avoid over-watering once the fruit is nearly ripe, as this will make for a bland flavoured melon (also too much rain).
Slide a flat piece of wood underneath ripening fruit on the ground to avoid rotting from contact with wet soil—harvest when the melon slips easily from the stem.
Harvest in 10-16 weeks. Compatible with (can grow beside) Sweetcorn, Sunflowers. And avoid growing close to Potatoes.
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