Start Collective Farm Woman melons indoors in pots
Even though the Ukraine sits in the geographical center of Europe, we tend to think of it as somehow a bit of Russia. Known as the “breadbasket of Europe,” it suffered under the Communist system to eliminate private farms and instead form huge collective farms. But from these dire circumstances there emerged a bright, shining light in the form of a melon that thrives in cool, short growing seasons.
Russian plant breeder V. Balyasnyi developed this melon in the early 1930s, and it soon became quite popular, especially in the Ukraine, because of its early ripening.
The sweetly flavored seven-to 10-inch melons ripen to a golden yellow. The firm flesh is crisp and white with a melt-in-your-mouth feel much like ice cream.
The aroma is just as enticing, with a floral scent that is most appealing. You can, of course, simply slice them and eat them as you would any melon, but the firm flesh lends itself to salads, topped with scoops of ice cream or even wrapped with prosciutto as appetizers.
The melons slip from the vine when ripe.
Melons grow best after all danger of frost has passed and the ground warms up. In the Rehoboth Beach area, the last frost is never later than April 25, so you should be fine directly planting the seeds into the garden in early May. Plant the seeds one inch deep with six to eight seeds per hill, or group of plants. Leave a good six feet between the hills. The seeds will germinate in four to seven days. Once the seeds sprout, thin them so you have three or four plants in each hill.
You can also start Collective Farm Woman melons indoors in pots a few weeks ahead of transplanting into the garden. Use a jiffy pot that is at least three to four inches in diameter so you do not damage the roots when moving the plants into the garden.
Floating row covers and picking off beetles by hand can help prevent diseases.
Seeds are often available at local nurseries and garden centers or from mail-order firms such as the nonprofit Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org, Seed Savers Exchange 3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA 52101, phone 563-382-5990), or Sustainable Seeds (www.sustainableseedco.com).
Even though melons appear hardy, they are in fact quite perishable and should be eaten fresh as soon as possible. An uncut melon will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days. You can freeze melon by cutting it into cubes and putting it into freezer bags. When you thaw out the frozen melon cubes, they will be a bit mushy but still good for smoothies or in fruit soups.
It is fairly easy to save your own Collective Farm Woman melon seeds. Just be sure they are at least 800 feet away from other melons so they do not cross-pollinate.
Let the melons you are saving seeds from get overripe by about 20 days to produce the most viable seeds. Scoop out the seeds and rinse them thoroughly in a colander or strainer. Once rinsed of all the pulp, spread the seeds out on paper towels or even old window screens. Your seeds are dry enough for storage when they are brittle enough to cleanly snap in half. Store the melon seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dark, and dry place.
Plant Collective Farm Woman melons for an abundance of crisp, sweet melons even if you plant them late in the season. Just don't feed them to dogs because you may get sad, and the dog could be melon collie.