Magical Volunteer

When August heat and drought decimated a lot of my garden, and with jalapeño peppers that never developed any heat, serranos that never set fruit, and tomatoes that had no taste, were plagued by bugs, and eventually were squashed by a tree, my first season as a serious vegetable gardener was a less than stellar one.

However, one bright spot emerged in it all, one that bore fruit so amazing as to make up for all the rest of the vegetable and insect shenanigans. And I didn’t even plant it:

Surprise cantaloupe!

At first I had no idea what it was. I thought it was a squash, with the most likely candidate being a cucumber or zucchini (neither of which I particularly like). But I’d seen a zucchini growing in another yard nearby, and the leaves and flowers matched, so I was convinced I had squash.

However, one day I was poking about, weeding around the vine, and I stumbled on a fully-developed melon under the leaves. I was stoked! It was something so completely unexpected, and a melon I actually like. Without realizing it, too, I had picked it by lifting the vine. Oops! I smelled the rind, and it did not yet smell very much like a melon, so I assumed it wasn’t ready. I let it rest 3 or 4 days in the house before slicing it open.

Suffice it to say I have never had a better cantaloupe. So juicy, so incredibly sweet, and so colorful. By comparison, the melons I’ve had from grocery stores barely register as edible, let alone tasty.

I have two more coming now, too:

Cantaloupe

The best thing is, I didn’t intentionally plant this. It’s growing in the middle of a bed full of native wildflowers and grasses, and very close to our deck. However, this might be part of its reason for existence and why the rodentia haven’t claimed it. Did I toss some stray seeds off the deck? Does the proximity of the deck help? After all, one of my cats likes to sleep under a bench about a foot from the vine. Not that she would lift a claw to chase a squirrel or even register as an intimidation to a raccoon. But at least the squirrels don’t know that.

I’ve since placed the bigger of the two melons on an overturned clay saucer to keep it away from the damp ground. That also seems to help keep all the pillbugs off, too. And the extra moisture from a close-by sprinkler head probably kept the vine alive through the drought.

Whatever the case, I’m already salivating at the melons that should be ready very soon, and I hope I can duplicate this accident… these volunteers for next year.

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