Has anyone ever heard of Turkish Melons?

hardin(7 SE OK)August 1, 2009

My brother-in-law was over this evening and he was talking about some melons his dad used to grow. He called them Turkish Melons. I'm assuming they are a variety of canteloupe?. He says they grow in an oblong shape and they are sweeter than canteloupes. Has anyone ever heard of these, and if so, where can I get some seeds? I'd like to surprise him with my search.

Thank you, Vickie

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


First, the brief melon history lesson:

Melons originated in Africa and then came to the rest of the world via trade routes, appearing in Egypt 4,000 year ago and in many other parts of the world 3000 years ago. The part of Asia that includes Iran, Afghanistan, China, Southern Russia, India, Turkey and Japan is an area of great melon diversity. Many melons brought from there to here decades ago are commonly referred to as a Turkish melon or Afghan melon whatever, although I am sure these melons have varietal names.

Secondly, a look at the melon family tree:

The melon (Cucurmis melo) family is huge with many sub-categories. These sub-categorities are not true botanical subclassifications, but rather just the arbitrary grouping of melons together in sub-categories because they more or less resemble each other.

The sub-categories are:
--cantalupensis (cantaloupes)
--dudaim (aromatic pocket melons)
--conomon (Asian melons ranging from bland to bitter) --reticulatas (muskmelons, commonly and erroneously called cantaloupes in the USA)
--flexuosus (snake melon or armenian cucumber)
--momordica (phut or snap melons, commonly called cob melons)
--inodorus (winter melons)

Turkish melons? Many of the inodorus (winter melon) group come from the part of the world around Spain, Turkey, Turkmenistan, etc. It is likely the melons you brother was described are in this group. Inodorus includes Casaba, Honeydew, Crenshaw and Canary melons.

All these winter melons grow in a shape that is more oblong than round. They take forever to grow, which is one reason they are known as winter melons--because they are harvested late enough in the growing season that some can be stored and carried over into winter to a certain extent. They are very sweet, very flavorful and have a delicious aroma. (The aroma is not as pronounced in grocery store melons of this type, but is amazing in home-grown ones.)
I have grown several inodorus melons and agree that they are among the sweetest of all the melons. I'm going to describe a few inodorus melons I've grown to see if they match your brother's description of a Turkish melon.

One of my favorites is from Russia (specifically the Ukraine) and is known as Collective Farm Woman. It is slightly more round than oblong and starts out a very dark green and matures to a gorgeous golden color rind with green flesh. Amazing flavor.

Bidwell Casaba is very oval in shape and is from California's Chico Valley area. This melon is a tawny golden color and sort of football shaped with pale orange flesh that is very sweet and tasty.

Crane is oval and somewhat resembles the netted muskmelons called cantaloupes here in the U.S. It has been grown in the U.S. for almost 100 years and is probably a cross of a persian melon and a crenshaw melon. Its skin has the faint green splotches when ripe commonly seen on some Japanese melons.

Orange-fleshed honeydew has orange flesh and a pale yellowish rind and likely resulted from a cross between the melon Tip Top and the green-fleshed honeydew known as White Antibes Winter. It is more oblong that round, but only a little.

Santa Claus melon is a casaba, and has rough skin and green flesh. All casabas are native to Turkey. Most casabas are oval though a few have more of a pear shape. It holds its flavor a long time in storage. Santa Claus ia a bi-colored Casaba with bright yellow skin splotched with dark green blotches

Piel de Sapo (Frogskin melon) is similar in shape and size but its green is almost completely a medium-dark green. It has green flesh, is oval and grows well for me. And, yes, the skin on a mature one does bear a certain resemblance to a frog's skin.

Amarillo de Oro is a Spanish melon that has great flavor and a very unusual coloration. When you cut into it, the flesh closer to the rind is green and then it gradually changes to pale salmon sometimes with a touch of white. The skin is a medium gold. The favor is superb.

There are a lot of other winter melons that might be the Turkish melon your brother mentioned, but I can't give very good descriptions of the because I haven't grown them all. Seed of many of them are available through places like Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek Heirloom Seed as well as at many other seed companies.

These include Sweet Freckles (a Crenshaw type), Cavaillon Espagnol (looks a lot like a muskmelon with the netted skin ad orange flesh, but very oval in shape), Kazakh (similar to Collective Farm Woman, but from Kazakhstan), Olivin (a Polish honeydew) Ashkabad (from Turkmenistan, so this one has a true connection to Turkey and it is VERY sweet with green flesh but it is more round than oval), and De Almeria (a white Tendral-type from Spain).

I'd go to the Baker Creek website linked below and read their melon descriptions. Be sure to look at all the categories because many of the so-called "American" melons are from the inordorus group but are grouped as 'American' because they've been grown here for a long time no matter their origin. The melon your brother described as Turkish probably resembles one of the melons I described above OR one or more of the melons at Baker Creek (or at Seed Savers Exchange), but you won't necessarily see the word Turkey or Turkish in its name since the entire melon family tree is a massive tree with many branches and growers/retailers often call a melon by something other than its true name.

Good luck finding your brother's Turkish melon.


Here is a link that might be useful: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 11:59AM
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hardin(7 SE OK)

Thank you very much, Dawn. From reading your descriptions, I think I have it narrowed down between Bidwell Casaba and the Amarillo de Oro. I will begin my search.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 10:21PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You're welcome.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 10:04AM
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