Okay, NOT a Melon

Or if it is, it’s a melon I can’t identify.

In the previous post, I gloated that I had a volunteer melon plant that showed up at the back edge of the garden. I’ve been letting it grow up and over the cucumber trellis and along the fence line, and it is certainly a vigorous grower – I keep having to pull it back through the fence, as it wants to invade my neighbor’s yard as well. It’s also fruiting like mad – in the photo, I’m displaying the largest of the babies. I think I’ve got at least a half dozen fruit thus far. The thing is, the bigger the fruit get, the less they look like melons. This larger one is starting to look ridged and a bit warty. More like a squash; or specifically, like a Carnival Squash:

How, you may ask, did I get a Carnival Squash in my garden when I didn’t plant one? Well, there’s always the chance that a squirrel or chipmunk buried a squash seed in my garden. (The rodents have begun their summer attack on the tomato plants and I already lost the most promising Brandywine to them – it looked like it was going to be over a pound when it was ripe but I came home last week to find it on the ground, with about a quarter of it nibbled away. It wasn’t even ripe yet!)

I think it more likely that the seed came out of my compost bin. I frequently buy decorative squashes in the autumn, and over the years I’m sure several have gone into the compost bin once they started to mold. This spring I emptied the contents of the bin into the garden (several years’ worth of household compost), so it’s entirely possible that’s how I ended up with this plant.

Think of it: that squash, mushy with mold, got dumped into the composter on some cold, late-fall morning. Could have been last year, could have been any time in the past four years. The soft parts of the squash fell away, exposing the seeds. Some of the seeds may have rotted as well, in the dark cool of the compost bin (my compost bin sits in the shade – I guess it’s what you’d call a cold pile). But this seed waited patiently until it got dumped into the sunny garden plot, rich with composted leaves and horse manure and watered with loving care. It waited until conditions were right and then POW! it exploded out of the ground and took over the garden.

The next time I have a chance to go to the Farmer’s Market, I may take a cutting of the plant and one of the fruits with me. The Fairfax County Extension office frequently has a booth there; maybe they can give me a positive ID on the thing. If it is, indeed, a Carnival Squash, I don’t quite know what to do. They can be cooked like an acorn squash, but John doesn’t eat squash and I certainly can’t eat ’em up by myself (I learned this after I planted ONE zucchini several years back). If they are Carnivals, they’re awfully pretty. I guess I’ll be giving them away to friends, like I do when I’m inundated with cucumbers and tomatoes. So this fall, if you see me coming bearing a large, lumpy paper sack – LOOK OUT!


  1. Donna Migliaccio

    I’ve run the photo by a few gardening forums, and the consensus seems to be that I have some kind of gourd (read: inedible).Since my attitude is that all gardening is an experiment, I’m going to let the critter continue to grow. At the very least, I’ll have some interesting autumn decorations.

  2. Donna Migliaccio

    I took a cutting of the plant and one of the fruits to the Farmers’ Market today and had the Fairfax Master Gardeners have a look at it. Five of them puzzled over it and the conclusion was: it’s a squash of some sort, possibly a squash/gourd hybrid.I took it home and cut it open. The flesh had a slightly sweet scent. I tasted a sliver of it and it tasted like nothing much.Whether it’s a squash or a gourd or a squash/gourd hybrid, it’s clearly not ripe yet. I’m going to give it a month and see what happens; meantime, I will be pruning it back pretty sharply, as it has overwhelmed my cuke plants.

  3. Joan L.

    It’s a friendly mysterious squash/gourd-ish thingamabob. I like it better and better for it’s ability to defy identification. The local farmer who has a cash and carry barn across from Eric’s house sells gourds (among other things). Except his sign says “gord”. So, he’s apparently only selling one, and it has a proper name.

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