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A Brief History Of Northern Melon Growing
A Brief History Of Northern Melon Growing

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From the history of watermelons - a journey from the Kalahari to Russia

Watermelon
Watermelon

What could be more desirable and tastier on a hot sunny day than a piece of cold and juicy watermelon? It is not surprising that people have been enjoying the taste of this fruit for more than a thousand years.

The homeland of watermelons is tropical Africa, namely the Kalahari Desert, where they grow as savages, by themselves, without human intervention. Since ancient times, a huge melon has spread over the endless expanses of the Kalahari, giving birth to small watermelons weighing only about 250 grams. They matured and were carried in different directions by gusts of wind.

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Now watermelons have spread everywhere where there are suitable conditions for their growth - a hot climate and fertile land, and in terms of weight they can pull a whole pood. Already in ancient Sanskrit, there was a word for a watermelon, and the artists and craftsmen of Ancient Egypt, where the watermelon was cultivated as early as 1500 BC, often made it the hero of their works. The scientists considered the portrait of the first watermelon on the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Merchant ships brought watermelons to the Mediterranean, and in the 8th century they ended up in China. The Chinese liked the watermelons so much that they organized a special September holiday in their honor, and today they grow the most striped berries in the world.

This plant was brought to Western Europe in the XI-XII centuries by the knights-crusaders. Until the end of the 17th century, watermelons were brought to Russia from abroad as an overseas delicacy. They were not eaten raw then, but the slices were soaked for a long time and cooked with pepper and hot spices. The first watermelons were sown in the south of Russia by the tsarist decree of Alexei Mikhailovich of November 11, 1660, and it was ordered: as soon as the outlandish vegetables ripen, immediately deliver them to Moscow. And under Peter I, watermelons were no longer imported from abroad, there were enough of their own.

Watermelon
Watermelon

An interesting legend has survived: Peter I descended with a flotilla along the Volga. In Kamyshin, the governor treated him to a watermelon for dinner. The king praised the food, asked where it was brought from, from what state. "These are the fruits here," answered the voivode, "they grow in our melons." Peter liked the watermelon - the emperor ordered that a salute be given in honor of the noble fruits. The cannons struck in three volleys. And soon a copper watermelon appeared on the spire of the Kamyshinsky magistrate - a memorable gift from Peter.

Watermelons were often served in palaces, but again not fresh, but soaked in sugar syrup. Only in the 19th century, the watermelon finally took root in the Lower Volga region and in the Ukraine, moved from high-society palaces to peasant houses, and began to use it in its natural form. Today, watermelons have taken root in Russia so much that no one would even think of remembering their African great-grandfathers.

The plant got its Russian name from the word "kharbuza", which in Iranian languages ​​means - melon, or "a huge cucumber the size of a donkey."

But you are wrong if you think that watermelons can only be in the form of the usual striped balls. For example, Japanese melon growers have gone ahead and recently started growing square watermelons. Peasants from the island of Shikoku place the ripening berries in square glass boxes, and there they grow, taking on an unusual shape for themselves. Melon growers believe that square watermelons will be much more convenient to transport and store than round ones. The risk of them rolling out of the car when unloading is now minimal. Despite the high prices - square watermelons cost about $ 90 - they are actively snapped up.

Melon growing in Russia

Watermelon
Watermelon

It should be recognized that today there is already considerable experience in the cultivation of melons in the northern regions. Back in the XVI - XVIII centuries. melons were grown in large quantities not only in the south of the country, but also in the central regions - near Voronezh, Kursk and even near Vladimir, St. Petersburg and Moscow, where the greenhouse culture of watermelon and melon was widely used, using manure to heat the soil.

In the post-war forties and fifties, the northern melon growing entered a new stage in its development. Watermelons and melons again began to be grown everywhere in the Moscow, Yaroslavl and other regions of the Non-Chernozem Zone, using greenhouses, steam pits and ridges with shelters for this. Special varieties were also created for these purposes (watermelons near Moscow Panfilov, near Moscow Kuzina, melons Ground Gribovskaya, Gribovskaya seedling, etc.).

It is believed that, subject to a number of conditions, it is possible to grow these crops even in Siberia and here in the Urals.

Of course, it would be too loud to assert that watermelons, in particular, grow here "like grass". Naturally, growing really sweet fruits in our conditions is not at all easy. And until recently, I would even say, and unpromising. For example, I compare the conditions of the Urals with the conditions of my native Yaroslavl region. There, we just grew watermelons on a warm ridge under a temporary spring film shelter and ripened.

And here everything is much more complicated. And the point is not only in our harsh climate, but first of all in the fact that we don't have summer for summer. Therefore, the varieties of watermelons recommended for the northern regions either gave me a crop of average taste, or simply did not have time to ripen, despite a lot of trouble and worries.

And only recently new varieties of watermelon Pannonia and Suga Baby that have appeared on the market have really justified themselves in the Urals. In last year's absolutely "not a watermelon summer", when, in fact, not everyone had an abundance of cucumbers, watermelons grew and poured quite calmly, and to my great amazement they were incredibly sweet. At least, much better than those offered to us on the shelves of vegetable stalls.

It may be difficult to believe in such my words, but it is really a fact. And if until last year, although I planted several watermelon plants every year, I did not harbor any special illusions and hopes about them: they will grow up, they will grow like that, no, they will not. Now the whole family stands up for allotting at least half of the greenhouse for watermelons next year.

And it's all about new varieties that are really adapted to our conditions. Although, of course, I do not deny that watermelons require no less care than, for example, the same cucumbers. Yes, and their own tricks when growing them exist too.

Read the next part. Growing watermelons: basic rules, promising varieties →

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