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Art Combe’s Ancient Watermelon
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User ID: 348173
02-12-2019 07:24 AM

Posts: 16,903

Post: #1
teach Art Combe’s Ancient Watermelon
The Journey of the Handled Ancient American Watermelon, from Native American Artifact to your Garden

[Image: Handled-Watermelon-Mogollon-Rim-Scenery-...C05860.jpg]
The cave similar to the one Art Combe found crookneck watermelon seeds.

Some people love murder mysteries. I have the same feeling, only I like to unravel the mysteries of plants." These are the words of Art Combe, who was also known as the “Wizard of Wasatch County.” He was an intrepid plant breeder of the early 20th century and a seed sleuth of the American Southwest. Art’s lifelong passion for horticulture and fascination with naturally breeding unique and hardy plants led him to one of the most fantastic finds in seed saving history.

[Image: Combe-Kirk-_-Art-Handled-Watermelon-Gran...56-(1).jpg]
Art Combe, the Wizard of Wasatch, was an avid and dedicated seed saver and plant breeder!

Art Combe was raised in the rugged, wild west, born at the turn of the 20th century in Ogden, Utah. As a young lad on the American frontier, Art’s family cultivated much of their own food. A trip to town was a major journey, as they lived many miles from the nearest outpost. Much of Art’s childhood was spent reveling in the world of plants in the family’s garden. He also learned to graft and cross breed for new and exciting varieties at his grandfather’s nursery.

In 1914, the local newspaper began to run a column written by the famous Luther Burbank (the father of the Russet-Burbank potato and the Shasta Daisy). Art became enamored with the mechanics of plant breeding and found a hero in the legendary horticulturist. Inspired by Burbank’s writings on plant improvement and breeding, Art took to the library, reading up on all things horticulture. From humble beginnings, a master plant breeder and seed collector was born.

[Image: Combe-Kirk-_-Art-Handled-Watermelon-Gran...C03602.jpg]
The ancient vessel that held the crookneck watermelon seeds.

By the early 1920s, Art was teaching horticulture to Navajo Indian students at the White River Agency School on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in White River, Arizona. Art was an avid prospector and artifact collector, and the dramatic and largely uncharted landscape of this desert area was fantastic for exploring and artifact hunting. One day Art and his students decided to explore an abandoned sandstone cave. Deep in the cave, safely nestled on a natural rock ledge and covered in a thick deposit of guano and sand, Art found an ancient Native American artifact: a small bottle. The container was a woven basket made of strips of yucca. The bottle was stopped with a cork and dipped in pine pitch to make a protective seal. Much to Art’s delight, the vessel was filled with brilliant red watermelon seeds.

[Image: Combe-Kirk-_-Art-Handled-Watermelon-Gran...C03537.jpg]
The ancient vessel that held the crookneck watermelon seeds pictured with other artifacts.

Art made his discovery in the early 1920s, before major efforts towards conservation of artifacts in the U.S. In those days there was no organization to help with archeological discoveries. Instead, he brought the seeds home and sowed them in his garden, carefully tending the living time capsules. Of the two hundred or so seeds found in the bottle, only about twelve germinated. His find also predated many of the techniques that we use to study artifacts today. Even if he had tried to figure out the age of the seeds in the pot, the technology to decipher their age did not yet exist!

[Image: Handled-Watermelon-Rebecca-FES07405.jpg]
Ancient crookneck watermelon growing in the field at Quail Hollow Farm.

Art began cultivating his ancient watermelon seeds in 1931. The excitement became more palpable as the winding vines grew, inch by inch. As the fruits began to develop, Art was astounded at the unusual shape of the melons--they were unlike any watermelon he had ever seen! The fruits were crookneck: a round watermelon that tapered at the end into a perfect handle. Art presumed that this unique trait was bred by the ancient stewards of this variety as a way to more easily carry the watermelon as a food source on journeys.

[Image: Combe-Kirk-_-Art-Handled-Watermelon-Gran...C03587.jpg]
Fresh cut ancient crookneck watermelon! It is amazingly delicious!

Art excitedly cracked open the oddly shaped fruit and was delighted to find a pleasantly sweet and juicy flesh. The Ancient Native Americans had an appreciation for the same tasty red fleshed watermelons that we still love today. Art bred the watermelons for a more traditional, round shape over several decades. He did not see the commercial value in the oddly shaped, crookneck melon. The variety that Art selectively bred over many years is known today as the Ancient Watermelon: it is a large, round melon with red seeds and a deep red, juicy flesh with exceptionally sweet flavor. While Art selected the large round melons and “bred out” the trait for handles, he noted that each year he would always get a few rogue melons that reverted to the original Native American handled shape.

[Image: Watermelon-Ancient-Melon-(12).jpg]

More history below

Politics only interests me because it transforms
people into dribbling nincompoops (The World Is Mad).

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LoP Guest
lop guest
User ID: 488786
02-12-2019 07:37 AM


Post: #2
RE: Art Combe’s Ancient Watermelon
Knew a guy once that grew heirloom cantaloupe from Israel from the time of jesus
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Registered User
User ID: 488793
02-12-2019 07:51 AM

Posts: 160

Post: #3
RE: Art Combe’s Ancient Watermelon
[Image: bundy.JPG]

Passionate seed saver Cliven Bundy played an integral part in saving crookneck watermelons.

Cliven Bundy was one of Art’s old gardening pals and had received the seeds from Art in the 1970s. Art entrusted Cliven with a few precious seeds poured directly from the vessel. These were seeds for the handled watermelon, not the large round melon that Art had been selectively breeding since the 1930s. Cliven’s reputation as an expert melon farmer reassured Art that he would continue to keep the seeds in production. Bundy shared seeds of the ancient watermelon with countless local gardeners, some of whom liked the handled trait and selectively bred for watermelons with handles.

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User ID: 439693
02-12-2019 07:52 AM

Posts: 3,172

Post: #4
RE: Art Combe’s Ancient Watermelon
Watermelon leaves me bloated. I just found that out last year and wouldn't have thought.
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lop guest
User ID: 348173
02-12-2019 07:58 AM


Post: #5
RE: Art Combe’s Ancient Watermelon
pacman  Wrote: (02-12-2019 07:52 AM)
Watermelon leaves me bloated. I just found that out last year and wouldn't have thought.

Cut down on the amount you eat in one setting Naughty
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lop guest
User ID: 470206
02-12-2019 08:08 AM


Post: #6
RE: Art Combe’s Ancient Watermelon
Saying its gotten sweeter because the overglaze on the painting had faded was disingenuous.
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LoP Guest
lop guest
User ID: 488796
02-12-2019 08:13 AM


Post: #7
RE: Art Combe’s Ancient Watermelon
LoP Guest  Wrote: (02-12-2019 07:58 AM)
pacman  Wrote: (02-12-2019 07:52 AM)
Watermelon leaves me bloated. I just found that out last year and wouldn't have thought.

Cut down on the amount you eat in one setting Naughty

You can spit them into a money jar and sell them to someone looking for a whole field of them.
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LoP Guest
lop guest
User ID: 488796
02-12-2019 08:14 AM


Post: #8
RE: Art Combe’s Ancient Watermelon
Smal seed fields = $$$$$$$
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