For more than 15 years, my family has planted a garden. During that time we have always
grown our favorite watermelon, the Crimson Sweet. It’s one of the few watermelons that
grows well in Southern Idaho, as long as you start them indoors and then transplant
the seedlings to your garden when the weather permits.
Spring 2009: A Stranger Appears In Our Garden
Early one morning in the Spring of 2009, I noticed that one of the Crimson Sweet plants
had a strange colored fruit growing on it. From its coloring, I was certain it was a going to
develop into a diseased or malformed watermelon. Going on about my work, I ignored it
figuring I could always cut it off later.
After a few weeks, the fruit had grown to about the size of a hardball and appeared to be a
Honeydew melon. I had not planned on growing any Honeydew melons and considered
pulling the plant out of the ground. However, it was doing well so I decided to leave it alone;
besides, I thought, I could always give the fruit away.
When the fruit reached the size of a soccer ball. I decided to take a better look at it because
it had grown larger than any Honeydew I had ever seen. As I studied it, I noticed pale green
stripes running up and down the body of the melon. Once I turned it on its side, it became
apparent that it was not a Honeydew. In fact, it looked a lot like a Crimson Sweet watermelon.
To my amazement, it turned out that it was a Crimson Sweet watermelon but unlike any I had
ever seen. To put it mildly, it was an odd ball, lime green in color but missing the dark green
A few days later, I called my sister to tell her what I had discovered. She told me it was likely
a genetic mutation, a one in a billion change that results in a new fruit. I realized she might
be right. Except for the strange lime green coloring, it appeared to be a healthy looking
Crimson Sweet watermelon.
I was so intrigued by the fruit I decided to contact some professional growers to see if they
could provide any information on the watermelon. As it turned out, they were just as surprised
as I was by the watermelon’s color and shape, agreeing it did appear to be a genetic variant
of a Crimson Sweet but unlike any they had ever seen. They did, however, caution me that
the seeds of the watermelon might not yield plants true to the original, due to possibility the
female flower on the mother plant might have been cross-pollinated with pollen from another
Watermelon’s are unusual in the fact that they can self-pollinate; since they have both male
and female flowers and don’t require pollen from another plant in order to produce fruit.
If they do self-pollinate, the seeds from watermelon remain true to the mother plant; since
the DNA was contributed by male and female flowers that came from the same parent.
Wishing, Waiting, Hoping
As the weeks passed by, I waited patiently to harvest my “limey” (as I had nicknamed it).
Finally, near the end of August I came to the conclusion that it was ready to harvest. I took
out my knife and carefully cut the watermelon from its vine. As I picked it up, I noticed a
streak of blood-red liquid streaming down its side. It was so red I thought I had cut myself.
Taking the watermelon inside my house, I plopped it on my kitchen counter and began to
cut it apart. As I did, the watermelon cracked open on its own (always a good sign) and
split partially apart. When I had finished cutting it into halves, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I
was looking at one of the darkest red centers I had ever seen in a Crimson Sweet! Many
Crimson Sweets have pinkish/red centers, but here was one that was red, really red and
looked just amazing. I couldn’t wait to taste it. And I didn't. Yup! I cut a slice right out of the
heart chucked in my mouth and was just stunned by its mouth watering sweetness. As a
general rule, watermelons taste better when they have been refrigerated but here was one
that was delicious, even though it was warm!
Along the way, I made two mistakes. One, I should have taken a picture of the center of the
watermelon before I ate it. Yes, I ate the whole thing by myself - though not in one sitting
(it took me a week). And two, I forgot to weigh it. Afterwards, I estimated its weight at about
22 pounds. Not the biggest Crimson Sweet I had ever seen but still quite large.
And yet, I almost threw it all away.
How? I tossed all the seeds into the trash and came within a day of throwing them out. Now
I know what you are thinking ... what a dumb move that would have been and you’d be right.
Thankfully, I came to my senses and decided to save the seeds.
2010 Growing Season
Maybe it was just wishful thinking but I really did believe that I was going to be able to grow
more “lime green” watermelons. Why? Because the mother plant from the previous year was
among the first ones in my garden to develop flowers. So, I came to the conclusion there was
a high probability it had pollinated itself. It also helps that very few people grow watermelons
where I live (Southern Idaho). So, I was pretty certain the chance of a cross with a plant from
another garden was extremely low.
What was the result? In the 2010 growing season, I harvested over 40 lime green
watermelons. What you see pictured on the left is one of the bigger ones.
So How Do They Taste?
Wonderfully sweet, with a great texture! Even now, as I write this, my mouth starts to water at
the thought of digging into one of those cold, sweet, juicy watermelons. Each year, as soon as
the plants put on fruit, our neighbors start asking when they will be ready. Unfortunately, last
season (2011), I disappointed a lot of them when we ran out early. Why? Because the word
got out over the radio that we had vine ripened watermelons and people came running from all
over the area and started carting them away 8 to 10 at a time! One guy wanted 16 but
I told him that out of deference to my neighbors, I had to limit him to 10.
Saldana Crimson Sweet vs. Standard Crimson Sweet
In good growing condiitions, the Saldana Crimson Sweet often exceeds the sweetness of its
dark striped brother but amazingly, it has only about half the seeds and develops a yellowish
cast to it when it’s ripe! What could be better than a growing a watermelon that lets you know
when it’s ready to pick? That’s been the number one complaint of watermelon growers for
Saldana Crimson Sweet Seeds are now available for the 2012 growing season.
To order them click here.
The Story of the
Saldaña Crimson Sweet Watermelon
by Rick Saldaña
Watermelon on the right has fewer seeds!
Total number of seeds in each watermelon
was 411 (left) vs. 208 (right). The left one
weighed 18 lbs., the right one 23 1/2 lbs.
The letters “HP” stand for hand pollinated.
Amazing . . . lime green color!
Amy with a 22 pounder ... well at least 1/2.
Side by side comparison cut exactly in half.
Compare the mottling (pencil thin striping)
it’s the same, only the dark green stripes
are missing from the above picture.
Watermelons shown are from 2010 season.
* Saldaña is pronounced: Sal - don - ya
Click on photos to enlarge image.
Notes From The Watermelon Patch
Watermelon Growing Tips
How To Order Seeds
* Last updated 3-1-2012 *
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