Research Updates: U.C. Davis
Mini melons
U.C. Davis researchers rate the quality of entrants in a new class, the personal watermelon

By Cara Hungerford

Posted July 20, 2004: Watermelons, first recorded among vendor inventories 375 years ago, have long been a market staple. Traditional varieties are large, seeded and best served at picnics. Then, roughly sixteen years ago, the evolution of the watermelon kicked into high gear: in 1988, the seedless melon hit the market; followed by the icebox melon, whose smaller size allowed for easier storage in home refrigerators. Today’s melon craze takes convenience to the next level – meet the Mini, or “personal” watermelon.

These melons, first introduced in 2003, are known for their small size, just 3 to 7 lbs. (Traditional varieties weigh in at a whopping 18 to 35 lbs.) The mini's manageable size is perfect for small families or single consumers. They also have thinner rinds, which can be seen either as a benefit—more edible flesh—or a liability—they bruise more easily. Richard Molinar, Small Farm Advisor of Fresno County and his associates at UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno put a number of these varieties to the test and came up with the best-yielding, best-tasting and most likely to withstand a cross-country trip.

Ten varieties of mini melons were grown and tested at the UC Westside Research and Extension Center in Five Points, California. Crops were harvested twice, roughly 10 days apart, and an average of the two harvests was taken.

Petite Perfection, one of the first commercial varieties available, turned in the highest yields, with 73 percent more melons than the lowest-yielding Mini triploid 2618. Petite Perfection was also found, along with variety 5116, to have the thinnest rinds of those measured, just 7 mm. Extazy and 2618, by contrast, were the best travelers, with a full 20 mm of rind. Another variety, 5109, also produced 20 mm rinds, but with an average weight of 12.8 lbs. it was too large for the mini-watermelon category.

A small taste test garnished good marks for the darker red flesh varieties, 5109, 5116 and Extazy, while, the lighter, orange-red colored melons did not fair as well, with Petite Perfection even receiving a comment of 'flavor undesirable.'

The overall winner—5116: one of the top three in average yield; with a thin rind, offering more fruit for the consumer; and good performance in the taste test. Best of all, at only 18 cm in diameter, there is no need to rearrange the refrigerator to squeeze it inside.

To read the complete study, go to:

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