Ark of Taste
Moon & Stars Watermelon
Common names include: Cherokee Moon and Stars, Long Milky Way Moon and Stars, Moon and Stars, Pink Flesh Amish Moon and Stars, Sun, Van Doren’s Moon and Stars, Yellow Flesh Moon and Stars
A magical melon, the dark green and yellow speckled skin of the Moon and Stars watermelon evokes a living galaxy while its happenstance return suggests a storybook ending. The Moon and Stars' oval to oblong shape resembles Black Diamond, but its trademark silver dollar to pea-sized golden bursts set it apart. Graced with white seeds and a slightly ridged, thick rind, this watermelon can reach up to forty pounds in weight when thump-ready for eating. When heirloom aficionados such as Roger Yepsen and Benjamin Watson describe Moon and Stars, the discussion always returns to flavor, given that this pinkish red variant is extraordinarily sweet and flavorful. But flavor is not the entire attraction of this peculiar melon: it is legendary for many reasons.
In the mid 1970s, Kent Whealy began to hear from his Seed Savers Exchange members of a remarkable watermelon introduced to American gardeners sometime before 1900. This Moon and Stars watermelon persisted in seed catalogs through the 1920s, but many feared it had been lost forever. So Kent began a search for this melon, and in 1980 he mentioned the sought after melon on a television show out of Kirksville, Missouri. Fortunately, Merle Van Doren, a farmer near Macon, Missouri was watching and decided to track down Kent. Merle picked up the phone and surprised Kent with news that the melon was not extinct at all; he was cultivating this unusual watermelon speckled leaves and allin Missouri. Most importantly, he would save Kent some seed.
Kent went to pick up the seed, bringing a Mother Earth News photographer with him, and although Mr. Van Doren refused to be photographed, Kent posed next to a stunning pile of yellow-starred melons. Featured in the January 1982 edition of Mother Earth News, the back from extinction melon became an instant rage. Since the resurrection of the Van Doren variant, other yellow speckled heirlooms have resurfaced from Cherokee and Amish traditions and all have surged in popularity. Twenty years later, they remain among the bestselling heirlooms offered by the Seed Savers Exchange, and have been picked up and promoted by at least two-dozen other seed outlets. Moon and Stars is truly a stellar success among heirlooms, proving that what was once thought to be obsolete can be revived to the status of a national treasure.
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