A real pleasure of summertime is eating a watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) harvested ripe from the lawn. For an abundant watermelon supply, consider growing some of these heirloom, large-growing varieties of melons that excel in flavor, texture and size. Standard-sized melon varieties weigh 20 to 30 lbs. These bigger cultivars, some of which have watermelons weighing over 200 lbs, take more garden area than hybrid melons bred for smaller urban gardens and also for fruits that fit easily into refrigerators.
If you want very impressive watermelons, two heirloom varieties may develop giant fruit. “Carolina Cross,” also known as “Weeks North Carolina Giant,” potentially produces watermelons that weigh over 250 lbs. Introduced in 1963 by Weeks Seed Company, in 2006 a fruit of the group set a new world record for watermelons in 268 lbs. Another cultivar with large fruit, “Giant Cobb’s Gem,” also known as “Cobb’s Gem,” “State Fair” and “American Champion,” produces fruits that weigh over a hundred lbs. It grew out of Alabama in the 1880s and was introduced by the D. M. Ferry Seed Company in 1885.
Some watermelon cultivars moderate 35 to 50 lbs, but can produce watermelons heading toward 100 lbs. “Rattlesnake,” named for the dominant stripes down its oblong, nearly cigar-shaped fruit, likely arose in the 1830s and averages 30 to 40 lbs, but can become much bigger. “Yellow Belly Black Diamond” can create fruits that weigh between 65 and 70 lbs.
Combining large size with sweeter-than-usual flesh, “Mountain Hoosier” watermelons can get to 75 or 80 lbs. This variety dates from before 1937 and has sweet, firm, crisp, red white and flesh seeds. With higher sugar for an heirloom watermelon, “Congo” has around 9.5 percent glucose. It produces 50-pound melons within an oblong form and has a tough, striped rind that does not bruise easily.
Some non-hybrid watermelon varieties that are bigger than conventional sizes but don’t qualify as giant possess delicious flesh that urges them for growing. “Florida Giant” yields round watermelons weighing around 50 lbs. The fruit is dark bluish-green with a thick rind and sweet, delicious flesh. Another round watermelon that attains 50 lbs, “Dixie Queen” includes fine-textured, delicious flesh along with a slim, pale green rind with narrow darker green stripes. It is an heirloom that’s existed since before 1935.
With a growing demand for sweet, small, personal-sized watermelons and vines that could take up less space and provide higher yields per square foot, seed businesses sell several hybrid varieties. Some are seedless triploid hybrids that have three sets of chromosomes. Most commercial watermelon varieties are hybrids rather than open-pollinated cultivars such as the heirloom varieties.