Monday, March 18, 2013

General Bidwell Melon

(Cucumis melo)

The casaba melon was named after the town of Kassabeh, near Smyrna, where melons are a big deal (Turkmenistan celebrates a national melon day each August). While the more popular and readily available Golden Beauty Casaba grow into eight-pound-spheres of white fruit, the Bidwell is a monster, reaching 16 to 20 pounds in an oblong football-shape. Almost everyone who plants and harvests the Bidwell raves about its taste, with Amy Goldman, author of Melons for the Passionate Grower, writing that it "tastes like heavenly orange sherbet."

Image credit: Nancy Leek

The Bidwell melon gets its name from John Bidwell (1819-1900) of Chico, California, who planted 10 acres (oh my goodness) and popularized the variety. Nancy Leek, who wrote the book on Bidwell, points out some wrong information in the Seed Savers Exchange's seed description. Leek says that Bidwell, a Brigadier General in the California Militia and U.S. Representative, received the casaba seeds from the USDA 1881. His first-year crop succeeded and he grew a (maybe literally) ton the following year.

We've done well with cantaloupe the past few seasons, but I'm not sure how Bidwell's melon would do in central Ohio. Maybe I should stop typing and order seeds right now so I can take my own photos of the fruit in August.

If you want to learn about 19th Century California politics, Leek's blog,, is the place to learn.

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