Seed of the Day :: Ali Baba Watermelon
Ali Baba Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is quite possibly one of the best watermelons we’ve ever had. Originating in Iraq, this watermelon can survive the brutal Texas summer sun – thanks to its pale colored rind that prevents sunburning.
Size: 1-2 feet H x 6-7 feet W, 12-20 lbs melons
When to plant: Spring-Early Summer (Early April-Early June for Central TX)
How to plant: Sow outdoors after the last frost date when the soil has warmed, 1/2 inch deep. Watermelons hate to have their roots disturbed, so transplanting is not recommended. Space 2 feet apart in rows, or sow in hills spaced 4-6 feet apart. Thin to 3 plants per hill. Requires full sun.
Square foot spacing: Not recommended for square foot gardening.
Harvesting: Determining when a watermelon is ripe is probably one of the most difficult things for a gardener to do. It is nearly impossible to determine watermelon ripeness visually, so here are some tips:
- Thump it. If the watermelon is ripe, it will sound dull and hollow; however, this can be difficult for the untrained ear.
- Color. The watermelon is ripe when there is little contrast between the stripes on the melon, and the surface color becomes dull.
- The underbelly. Look for the spot where the melon rested on the ground; a yellow or a cream color spot suggests ripeness, while a white or pale green spot indicates immaturity. The rind at the soil spot should toughen and resist denting with a fingernail when ripe.
- Check the tendril. If the tendril is green, you should wait to pick the melon. Harvest when the curled tendril near the stem begins to shrivel and dry up. If it dries while the leaves and rest of the vine look healthy, the melon should be ripe.
Culinary use: The flavor of this melon is superb. It’s very sweet and luscious, with a nice crisp texture. We recommend eating a melon of this quality straight, but it also makes a beautiful caprese salad: substitute melon for the tomatoes and mint for the basil, and drizzle with strawberry balsamic vinegar.
Medicinal use: The flesh of watermelon contains 90% water, while the other 10% consists of a small number of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamin C, folic acid, alkaline substances, and decent amount of magnesium and potassium. For therapeutic purposes, use the fruit, including rind. Watermelon is a diuretic, and may lower blood pressure.
Companion planting: Grow watermelon with corn, nasturtiums, peas, sunflowers, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, oregano and radishes. Nasturtium helps to deter bugs and beetles, and oregano provides general pest protection.