When it held its first fruit, I was at least able to examine it. Here is the first, nestled among the parsley at the southern edge of our garden. I thought, at first, that the shape was roughly pumpkin. The ribs down the side seemed to be sunken as I'd expect with a pumpkin.
So that I could show the vine to my friends on Facebook, I took a wider angle shot so that both the leaves and flowers could be examined. Guesses included a pumpkin, a watermelon, a cantaloupe and a true mystery gourd, some odd result of a hybrid. We grew none last year so whatever the vine was, it must have come up from garbage we threw onto the compost pile a year ago. Last winter's temperatures dipped to -12° (01/28/14) and I marvel at any seed that has the tenacity to survive that brutal cold.
By August the fruit had begun to betray its ancestry. The skin took on the rough exterior of a cantaloupe. But where did it come from? The only muskmelon we had was a few slices Mae gave to us last summer. None, to my knowledge, had seeds and nothing ended up in the compost. It was a mystery for sure.
Allowing it to grow for over a month, as mid-September rolled around the cantaloupe was now unmistakable. The vine grew five of them, each average size but wholly unexpected. Free food!
Melons lay beneath the vine in profusion since the vine was not very long nor extensive. I watched as the gourds grew and poked above the leaves. We picked a small one (above) as the rind seemed to be darkening. It was merely covered with a bit of mud and dust, though.
As September ended, we began picking the cantaloupes. We've had two already for breakfast. The first, small and barely ripe, was a bit crunchy but it proved what the vine was. Here Mom holds one for size comparison.
A close-up view of the top of one melon shows the beautiful texture of the skin, as though wrapped in an intricate basket weave. Could any skilled weaver do so well as this mere melon? Nature's handiwork outdoes our own every time, blindly wrapping the exterior of a gourd with marvelous detail.
Slicing open the largest of the melons shows the beautiful orange flesh. While the melon is not wholly ripe, it was ripe enough to enjoy for breakfast. I suppose the cantaloupe should have stayed in the garden another week or so but I worried about it being nibbled by an animal (something was already working on one section of the rind). Time to pick, said I, so the melon came in for us to enjoy.
So, how does the flesh look? It's still a bit unripe but clearly gives off that wonderful perfumed cantaloupe scent. I had a bowl for breakfast and marvel that this mystery vine produced so much bounty for nothing but a handful of waterings.