Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Watermelon

Watermelon-do you like it? I do believe I could live on Watermelon alone. I love it that much. I like it so much that I’ve tried to grow watermelons for years, all to no avail until last year. Last year I grew exactly one watermelon and I can’t even really take credit for it since it was a volunteer plant, but it was tasty so I don’t really care where it came from as long as I got to eat it.

Recently while thumbing through Frank C. Brown’s Collection of NC Folklore I discovered why I’ve never had any luck growing watermelons. Here’s just a few tricks of the trade:

  • Plant watermelons after the first full moon in April
  • Plant watermelons directly after breakfast
  • If you want to grow a good patch of watermelons-crawl backwards to the patch on the first morning in May
  • Don’t point your finger at a young watermelon or it will fall off-if you must point use all 4 fingers
  • If you step over a watermelon vine-all the melons will fall off
  • If you plant watermelons before sunrise bugs will not eat the vines

I know most of the old folklore above sounds silly, but I love watermelon so very much that come next May 1 you’ll probably find me crawling backwards to my garden. And I’m going to make sure no one steps over or points at my tiny melons that I’ve somehow managed to grow this year. Keep your fingers crossed for me that they actually get big enough for me to eat.

Do you like watermelon? Do you sprinkle salt on yours? I do.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    July 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Hilarious. Are there any tips on keeping squirrels from eating them? The last time I tried to grow them the squirrels ate them. I kid you not, they would roll them out of the garden (my cantaloupe too) & eat enough to ruin them. Very frustrating!
    My family eats a watermelon every week through the summer. It’s a hot weather staple. Especially this year, we’ve been pretty much from 95-102 for weeks now.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 12, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Tipper–Ken wins the genuine son of the Smokies award for his response regarding the culinary preferences of hogs. They won’t touch a cucumber, and to the day he died, neither would Daddy. His reasoning was simple: “I’m not going to eat anything a pig won’t touch.”
    Swinish disdain for poke salad is news to me, but it makes sense inasmuch as the plant is somewhat toxic (that’s why you cook and drain it multiple times). As for the shoat belonging to Ken’s friend that won’t eat squash, I reckon it has something wrong with it. It has been my experience that hogs love most any member of the squash family, and they will absolutely devour pumpkins.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    July 12, 2011 at 8:34 am

    I wouldn’t cross my fingers if I were you. They tell me that if you cross your fingers as you’re leaving the patch, all the vines will tangle and choke the blooms.
    I believe there was a spell where God was very pleased with His children and He wanted to reward them so He created watermelon and when people eat watermelon out under a big shade tree with others around them, they are for that moment the way God wanted them; loving, happy, neighborly and as one.
    Now I don’t like the interruption of spitting out the seeds so I taught myself a long time ago to eat, chew, include, whatever, the seeds and I don’t stop until I’m down to the pink inside rind or I pick out all the seeds, completely, before I commence.

  • Reply
    July 12, 2011 at 6:00 am

    Just remembered this story one of my childhood friends told about eating watermelons. It seems there was this young lady that he had always admired from a distance. She was the perfect girl in every respect.
    However, we all have our faults or things that could tarnish our image. It seems one day at some picnic they were having a watermelon eating contest. He swore to this; he said she could eat a slice of watermelon fast as greased lightning and blow the seeds out the sides of her mouth at the same time without ever taking her mouth away from the slice. This for some reason destroyed his fantasy. I think he was too sensitive. Anyway, I bet she won the contest!

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    I have not had much luck with watermelons, except last year we did get a few small ones, but the chickens ate them all.
    And I do like salt on mine.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    July 11, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    Mitchell’s grandson, Cy, loves watermelon. Last year, when he was almost three, Mitchell’s daughter thought using watermelon would be a great way to teach Cy his shapes. She cut circles, squares, & triangles out of the tasty fruit, thinking it would be a great reward for a correct answer. Just as Anita was giving herself a big pat on the back for creativity, Cy hollered, “Mama, cut us an octygon!” End of lesson.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    I love those tips for growing watermelon! Too much fun! I like salt on my watermelon as well as my cantalope…my family thinks I’m odd.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    If I might reply to Jim’s comment:
    Jim, when I was a teenager growing
    up, we had 56 sous and 6 registered bores and we did feed
    the watermellon rinds to them. ( I
    forgot ). And hogs won’t eat poke
    salad growing or cucumbers. My
    buddie is raising one, now about a
    hundred pounds and he won’t eat

  • Reply
    Jerry M. in Arkansas
    July 11, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I like watermelons and I do sprinkle a little salt on them. I like pepper on cantaloupes. We always grew melons for sale, so we ate plenty of them as kids. I’ve heard the old saying about not pointing at a melon on the vine or it might fall off. I planted a new variety this year called Royal Golden. The melon turns gold when ripe and gets about the size of your head. Looks like a small pumpkin, but when you cut it, it’s red inside like a watermelon. I only planted two hills since the seeds were so expensive. I ordered them from a catalog (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds).

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    I love watermelon also. We have planted & had good success 2 years ago. This year we also had 1 baby melon on a volunteer, alas my 2 yr old nephew picked it when it was about the size of a baseball. He was so proud of it we didnt say anything. I must say that I am glad that I dont live in the same place as you when it comes to growing melons. I dont think I could follow most of those rules.

  • Reply
    Lisa @ Two Bears Farm
    July 11, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    We have tons of young watermelon in our garden! I hope it matures fully. In the past week they’ve quadrupled in size – now they are about the size of cantaloupes.

  • Reply
    Kent Lockman
    July 11, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I love watermelon too. I used to salt it until the heart doc said that was a no-no. Here is an anecdote about watermelon. At age 16 I played baseball for a coach who really knew nothing about coaching baseball. But we loved him. When were not playing so well he would yell,”Hey don’t you want them watermelons?” Every game we won (which was most of the time) old Ted our coach would get in the back of his beaten up old pick-up and bring out a bunch of iced down watermelons. He would cut them up into big pieces and we each got a section to eat right there on the diamond. On a hot July night after a game that “damn watermelon” as Ted would say was wonderful.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I love salted Watermellon! Maybe I
    can put a bug in The Deer Hunter’s
    ear and have him get us a picture of you crawling backwards in early
    April. Planting watermellons is one thing I’ve never tried, maybe
    next year…bet they’d do good in
    this porous, black soil. I know
    squash really come alive here,
    year before last they were just
    standing in line at my bridge,
    hoping I pick him first…Ken

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    July 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I LOVE good watermelon, and yes, I salt it. My wife, who is a real native Floridian, doesn’t understand that at all, but it actually makes the melon taste sweeter to me. I eat a quarter of a watermelon at a sitting.

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    July 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    I love watermelon and eat it anytime of the day or night. I have grown it in the past but haven’t had luck for the past few years, and really haven’t had much luck finding good ones at the grocery store. :o(

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    July 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Love it with salt. I’ve never had success growing it or cantalope either but we did in West Tn where I grew up. Black Diamond was the best & my brothers, too got nearly caught by our crazy uncle while raiding his patch–he actually had a rifle & was running after them!!!
    I can’t find really good sweet ones here in middle tn.–keep trying though & about once a yr. we luck out on a delicious one. Same problem with cantalope. Maybe my taste buds are just getting old.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Tipper–One other thought, and I don’t know why it didn’t come to mind with my first post. I wonder how many of your loyal readers remember saving the rinds? We did, because Grandma Minnie always put up a couple of big runs of watermelon rind pickles. The rest of the rinds went to Grandpa’s hogs. Interestingly, about the only thing I know of that hogs won’t eat is a relative of the watermelon. I wonder how many of your readers know what it is (I may have mentioned it before, nd infact think I did–Wayne Newton and maybe some others knew the answer, telling me that the had deep country roots).
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Nancy Wigmore
    July 11, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Watermelon is both my favorite fruit and vegetable! I can still in my mind’s eye see my sisters and me sitting by the roadside selling watermelons daddy had growned for 25 cents a piece or 5 for one dollar. Nothing like a slice of ice cold watermelon on a summer’s day. Bogue Sound watermelon grown in the sandy soils of NC’s coast are among my favorites. yum, yum! Thanks for the memories.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    July 11, 2011 at 11:13 am

    A fellow watermelon lover here!
    I eat watermelon everyday for lunch during the summer time. There is nothing that I love more.
    Watermelons remind me of hot summer days when I was growing up and my mom would drive to the local store to buy a HUGE watermelon. Before we even left the store, the owner would cut a small plug out of the watermelon to show us that it was nice and ripe.
    When we got home, we would always put it down in our spring box so that it would get icy cold. I always loved the loud POP when you first cut into a very ripe melon. That “pop” makes my mouth start to water immediately… like Pavlov’s dog when he heard the bell!
    I have been buying seedless watermelons at local grocery stores and they are pretty good. This past weekend, I found one of those GIGANTIC Rattlesnake Watermelons at a local produce stand. That watermelon is bigger than my Cocker Spaniel!
    When I cut into that watermelon it made the loudest “pop” that I have ever heard. And even though I am having to deal with plenty of seeds, the flavor is wonderful. (Much better than those seedless things!)
    I like to sprinkle a bit of salt on my also!

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 11:05 am

    I like the taste of melons when I’m eating them, but not the after-taste and I do use salt. We grew watermelons to sell when I was a child so we always had all we wanted to eat. My cousin and I would share one; I gave him the “heart” and I ate the part with the seeds. Since we had no electricity for a refrigerator we rolled the melons under the bed to cool them.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 11:05 am

    How funny! I love watermelon, too. Our son wanted us to plant watermelons this year, so we did. A few of them are getting pretty big. I like salt on mine and I like the ones with seeds, they seem to be much better than those fancy seedless ones they sell now a days. What’s watermelon without spitting a few seeds?

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I’m with you! Could live on watermelon and have to put salt on it. Sending good thoughts out in hopes your watermelons grow big enough for you to enjoy!

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    July 11, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Watermelon is better than any kind of candy. When we were little we called it wallermelon.

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    July 11, 2011 at 9:45 am

    I love watermelon.. but when I was little and my mama was going to have my brother Wayne, she explained her changed look to me in this way: she had swallowed a watermelon seed and that’s why her belly was growing bigger and bigger. I totally believed her. When she had to leave to go to the hospital to have it “removed”, I was sent to stay with cousins. When I returned I saw what the thing looked like that they took out.. it was a baby!!! I did not eat watermelons for years, for fear of getting one those things in me! I was always quick to tell others.. DON’T SWALLOW THOSE SEEDS!

  • Reply
    Ray P. Algee
    July 11, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Hi Tipper,
    I grew up in Mississippi and in the summer, watermelon was one of the basic food groups. Maternal grandfather always had plenty.
    One of my favorite times was the trek to the watermelon patch with a wheelbarrow to stock up for the coming days.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Do you start them in your greenhouse in peat pots? Do you put them out as soon as you can under one of those water filled hot caps? Do you try and find the shortest day to maturity variety? If some of us crazy gardeners here in the Puget Sound basin can grow watermelon I would have thought for sure you could too. I’ll bet you get some very nice ones this summer! And Next year watch out, cuz I know you’ll be crawlin’ bacward!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 11, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Tipper–Just thinking of a big slice of watermelon, so icy cold drops bead up on the rind, is enough to bring tears of pure joy to a glass eye.
    Beyond my love of ’em, watermelons hold a special place in my childhood memories. Grandpa Joe was so fond of watermelon that I do believe it might have been his favorite food, and though slim of frame he was a mighty trencherman. In my mind’s eye I can see him coming up the road, bent over with his burden, which would be a big old cannonball watermelon (the Black Diamond type mentioned by Donna) in a tow sack. It would go into a wash tub filled with ice and water, and after a session of hoeing corn, pulling weeds, or such like, we would cut it.
    Oh the sound of that splitting rind as the knife went in, a sure indication it was good and ripe. Then would come the eating on the front porch, with Grandpa laughing at my seed spitting efforts.
    I fully agree with Donna on the inferior taste (and size) of the seedless ones. When they can be found, give me a cannonball or a Charleston Grey any time.
    As for success in growing them, I strongly suspect you don’t have the right soil and probably not an ideal setting either. They do well in a variety of soils, but in the mountains they seem to flourish best in river bottom loam/sand. I tried growing them every year as a boy with distinctly mixed success.
    One other thought on Theresa’s Mamaw sleeping like a babe after eating watermelon. She clearly didn’t eat as much as me (boy or man), or else she has an expandable bladder. For me, watermelon is a sho’ ’nuff “pass through.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    July 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

    yes watermelon – yes salt.
    and over the fourth weekend my neice was dragging slices of melon through the fresh salsa I made. try it – the combo was surprisingly delicious.
    much love — beautiful friend.

  • Reply
    Wayne Newton
    July 11, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Tipper, Papa grew one patch (field) of watermelons for market, which all of us boys ignored for we knew it was us who had to gather them, haul them to the Rail Road siding in Moultrie, and load the big Box Car, which carried them to the market in Atlanta.
    The exact opposite of the drudgery in those patches was the single row he planted in the middle of each tobacco field.
    As the tobacco crop neared maturity, we watched the melons closely, hoping and praying they would be ready when we started Put’n in tobacco.
    When they were ready, on Put’n day, each Cropper would select at least one, sometimes two, and carry them to the spring branch that ran through the pines beside the fields.
    There they were placed into the water, submerged while cool, and where they rested until late-mid morning.
    At a time selected by the head Cropper, the mule that pulled the sled was driven over to the fence nearest the branch, and the entire crew went to the branch to retrieve one melon each.
    These were then hauled, in the tobacco box, back to the grassy area at one end of the rows. Each cropper then picked up his melon, walked to a clean spot of grass, and threw it onto the ground! Busting it wide open!!
    You see, nothing is more delicious or refreshing than the Heart of a spring-cooled melon, during the oppressive heat and humidity of a South Georgia summer day.
    Breaking it open that way, no knife, and eating the great pieces with our bare, tobacco covered, hands was a delight that would be hard to beat; unless it was the melon which we saved for the afternoon, when the heat and humidity was even greater.
    Few memories of today are stronger than these.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Love cold watermelon. The black diamond’s had the best taste but don’t find many of them anymore. Used to, folks farmed them to sell out of the area and found the oblong ones were easier to load. Not many farmers here anymore and now the melons so expensive to buy that i don’t eat them as often. May try to raise a few next year and like you, will try whatever it takes to get them to grow.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    July 11, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Tipper: Indeed we love watermelon but that ‘fruit’ got my brothers/their buddies in more trouble than you could image. They were expert in finding ripe melons in our neighbor’s field, thump em to make sure, mark em so you could see them in the light of the moon, and then after a long fox hunt those boys would settle into that field with their dogs resting quietly beside them, pull out their pocket knife and help themselves – and even leave the rines as evidence! My daddy would be so embrassed when the farmer would tell him about the boys eating those melons and leaving the rines! We never tried to grow melons!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Barbara Johnson
    July 11, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Mmmmm. Watermelon 🙂 Tastes like summer!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    July 11, 2011 at 8:17 am

    We love watermelon here..salt or no salt..Where Oh Where have the big round green or the big striped melons gone? Eventhough, I sure love a homegrown Sugar Baby!
    Sure wish we had put in some watermelons, since the Cucurbit family has produced so well for us this year! We for sure would have been by the side of the road trying to sell them or give them away like these cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchinis…Ha..
    For some blessed reason we have not had to dust or spray our “cucurbits this year”, while my husband’s brother’s garden about 18 miles away has been fighting squash bugs and beetles to the extent of losing some of his plants..figure that! They also had hail and we did not..wonder if replanting triggered the bugs?
    I wonder why you would crawl backwards to the melon patch on the first morning in May? I have and idea…but not sure about saying it here…
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Our Alabama Uncle said the secret to growing big melons..Hot summers and manure, manure, and more manure!

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Yes, I LOVE watermelon. And I DO sprinkle salt! Dad taught me that. LOL
    I have watermelons growing, too. And hopefully the rabbits won’t find them and I’ll get to eat them.
    Good luck with yours!!!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    July 11, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Tipper, I love watermelon. I have always loved watermelons. No salt though, used to salt them but not now.
    I buy a watermelon, cut it up and put it in the fridge and eat till it’s gone.
    When I was small my family lived in Texas and every summer we would drive home to Western North Carolina to visit family. There was no AC in the car then and summer was hot. We would stop and buy a cold watermelon, cut and eat it on the side of the road.
    One year we forgot to bring a knife. We stopped and bought one on those yellow watermelons…….no knife. We dropped it, it busted open and we ate it and it was good!
    The good old days! It seemed to take less for us to be happy or maybe I should rephrase that. We had less and were just as happy!

  • Reply
    Donna W
    July 11, 2011 at 7:07 am

    I love watermelon too, but without salt. Cliff used to put salt on his, but since his heart surgery he doesn’t. I wish it weren’t impossible to buy big, seeded melons these days, like Black Diamond. All the stores seem to sell is small seedless melons, and they don’t have the flavor of the big ones.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 6:08 am

    I love watermelon, no salt. I never could stand salt on any of my fruit except tomatoes. I recall traveling from Oregon to visit my grandparents on Mountain Creek during the summers. We would sit or stand on their front porch eating our wedge of watermelon and seeing how far we could spit the seeds. Mamaw swore when she ate watermelon that it made her sleep like a baby. Here in south eastern Washington state, the locals know to wait for the Hermiston watermelons that come across the border from Oregon. They are the best watermelon you’ve ever eaten.

  • Leave a Reply