Thursday, February 18th, 2010...12:00 am

Watermelon: where to find different varieties

A piece of watermelon.... by Rebeca Mello

TheGardenLady received this question from Bluelytes:

Would you know where I could obtain seeds of these russian watermelon varieties?:  Podarck Solatsa or Skorospelyi Sakharnyi

Watermelon is one of my favorite fruits –  if you can find them when they are ripe and fully sweet. That doesn’t seem to be the case these days. When shopping for a watermelon if you see the stem end still remaining on the melon, one can tell that the watermelon was harvested early. This is a clue that generally the watermelon will be a disappointment. Hopefully, also, when you buy a watermelon, you will get one harvested locally so that you know the melon could ripen longer on the field.

summer by carrie227

China is the number one producer of watermelons. If Chinese watermelon are sold in US stores, they were probably picked before they ripened.

Your question intrigued me. I imagine that you are requesting a watermelon that you know is super sweet. So I did some research to try to find the seeds you yearn for.

I learned that watermelons are thought to have originated in the Kalahari desert of Africa. That makes sense to me because when I was a child, my parents planted a field of watermelon in a year that had a severe drought. We were surprised to see that even when the plants seemed to be dying we had the best harvest of watermelons we ever had. We had so many watermelons we didn’t know what to do with them; so we children would break them open, eat only the heart and have watermelon fights with the leftover watermelon flesh. Pink snowballs in the hot summer. We had so many we couldn’t give them away fast enough.

Family from Philadelphia drove down to the farm one day and loaded their car with so many watermelons that the car could barely move. Later we learned that just before they reached Philadelphia, their car had broken down from so much weight. It happened on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

I learned that the earliest recorded harvesting of watermelon was 5000 years ago seen in the hieroglyphics on Egyptian buildings. Watermelons were put in burial tombs to nourish Pharaohs in the afterlife. Watermelon spread to China in the 10th Century and to Europe in the 13th Century. I wonder if Russia discovered the watermelon via China or Europe.

HungryBaby by ` ³ok_qa³ `

The Garden Lady found that there are a number of Russian watermelon seeds sold in the US, but was unable to find seeds with the Russian names you mention. So I have come up with some places that you can search and perhaps find the particular watermelon seeds you want.

There are a number of watermelon organizations you can contact to ask if they know where to buy the seeds. I am listing just three associations.

The National Watermelon Association

NCMelons

Watermelon

There are some heirloom seed companies that might have the watermelon seeds you want. Three listed here are:

HeirloomSeeds

CherryGal

AmishLandSeeds

And finally in my research I called one of the best seed companies, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, to ask if they knew where to find your seeds. They did not have the seeds you requested but went out of their way to be helpful. Below is their letter with suggestions.

Seed Savers Exchange

Based in Iowa, this organization maintains the largest non-governmental collection of heirloom seed (around 25,000 varieties). Some of the seed from their collection may be purchased through their catalog. In the realm of Russian Watermelon they carry ‘Osh Kirgiza’ and ‘Sweet Siberian’.

NOTE: The Seed Savers catalog is only a snapshot of the many varieties available through the Seed Savers Exchange. For access to the many thousands of varieties available through the exchange one must become a member ($35 annual fee). As part of the membership, members will receive the Seed Savers Yearbook, which makes available many more varieties from the collection than their retail catalog.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Based in Missouri, this company offers many obscure vegetable, herb, and flower varieties. In the realm of Russian Watermelon they carry ‘Astrakhanski’, ‘Melitopolski’, ‘Osh Kirgiza’, and ‘Sweet Siberian’.

National Plant Germplasm System (GRIN)

This is a government seed bank. There are details on their site about how to request samples of their collection. This is a very valuable resource but it does take some time to figure out how to use it to best suit your needs. I would be happy to try to help you if you have questions, but I am by no means an expert.

GRIN Watermelon Collection (1,479 listings):

NOTE: Many of their listings are not attached to a variety name, but scroll through to find those listings that do have a variety name attached (it requires some patience).

I hope I have answered your question completely. Please do not hesitate to contact me for further information.

Kind Regards,

Lauren Giroux

Product Technician

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

955 Benton Ave

Winslow, ME 04901

207-877-5861

www.johnnyseeds.com

lgiroux@johnnyseeds.com

Please, if you do find the seeds you are looking for, let TheGardenLady readers know where you found them. Also, if you harvest them, let us know if they were as delicious as you remembered them to be.

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