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Harper melons are available in the late summer and fall.
The Harper melon is an umbrella term for a new line of melons that have been bred for both long shelf life and superior taste. Botanically a variety of Cucumis melo, these hybrids have surpassed many previously released strains of melon that may have delivered a fruit with a robust shelf-life but lacked any depth of flavor. New technology in the field and the consumers’ demand for more flavorful fruit have combined to create these new seed strains. Two commonly grown Harper type melons are the Infinite Gold and the Palmira.
Harper melons look very much like other cantaloupe style melons, sometimes categorized as western shipping melons, but are slightly less tan. They are almost perfectly spherical to somewhat oblong and have the typical netted exterior rind. The inner flesh is salmon-orange with a firm yet exceedingly succulent texture. Harper melons may be slightly less aromatic than other traditional varieties, but deliver a surprisingly sweet flavor rich with bright honey tones. Their brix measurement averages at least 12 degrees.
While Harper melons have been selectively bred to deliver a sturdier fruit, they are still packed with vitamins and minerals. They are a nutritious source of beta-carotene, folic acid, potassium, vitamin C and B6, and dietary fiber.
Harper melons may be used similarly to any other cantaloupe style melons with the added benefit of a prolonged shelf life. They pair well with feta and goat cheeses, almonds and hazelnuts, mint, citrus and cured pork. Uncut Harper melons’ retail shelf-life averages an astonishing 20 days.
Harper melons are part of an emerging trend in the melon-growing region of the San Joaquin Valley in California. Long Shelf Life, or LSL, type melons provide benefits to both the grower and consumer. They require less labor at harvest and maintain a prolonged superior quality at the grocery store.
A lot of the research and development conducted today on new melon varieties, like the Harper and other long shelf life strains, is centered at Sakata Seed America. Established in 1977, Sakata Seed America emerged as a research, production and sales division of Sakata Seed Corporation. It is headquartered in Morgan Hill, CA, but includes research facilities stationed in Salinas, California; Yuma, Arizona; and Fort Myers, Florida.