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The History of Agriculture in Osoyoos

The Zucca Melon

by Hermann Gummel
(as published in the Okanagan Historical Society's 45th Report, 1981, pp. 137-138)

agriculture3In 1939, Walter Graf and Hermann Gummel started in the business of growing Zucca melons, with 25 plants each.  Not knowing the proper maturity for harvesting them, they were left on the vines until the end of the summer, when they were taken to Penticton to be prepared under the supervision of Ted Atkinson, head of the processing department at the Summerland Experimental Station.

When the Zucca melon is mature, the skin becomes so hard that it has to be cut with a saw.  And that is what happened with most of the melons in 1939.  It was found that a melon fully developed, but with a skin still soft enough to be peeled with a draw-knife, brought the highest percentage of useable meat.

The Zucca melon is probably the largest melon grown.  It can reach a size of 100 pounds and over.  The largest weighed in at 127 ½ pounds, but the average weight is around 65 to 70 pounds.  The flesh is white and tasteless, which makes it ideal for processing.  After it has been cured in a sulphur dioxide solution and cut into one-quarter inch dices, it can be given any desired colour and taste.  And in the end it turns up in cakes and cookies as melon cubes.

The Zucca melon only blooms at night.  Large white blossoms raise their stem above the leaves and open their petals when the sun goes down.  If it is a cool night, the blossoms will stay open until mid-morning.  That gives the grower time to pollenize the female blossom by hand, as the bees will not go near them.  We have tried to put a drop of sugar syrup in blossoms near the beehives, but even that did not attract them.

After the wartime restrictions on imports came off, the demand for melons decreased, while growers’ expenses started to rise and the price for the melons remained at the same level.  Gradually the acreage planted decreased from year to year and by the middle of the 1950s, no more were grown.