Our 2023 EFN seed catalogue is now online! 100+ new varieties. Over 40 different growers and foragers from across the country. A million thanks to all who make this possible, especially our amazing seed-house crew!
EFN INTRODUCTION. We are honored to be once again offering this diverse population of Syrian watermelons, though we're profoundly disappointed that the civil war in Syria remains ongoing. We had hoped, when we first started growing these watermelons six or seven years ago, that we would one day soon be able to return them to growers in Homs during a time of peace. We will simply hold on to that hope for now.
Like all landraces, these watermelons display a wide range of traits, and this diversity is their greatest strength. If you've never successfully grown a watermelon, try this variety. It is very forgiving. Given its provenance, it is incredibly drought tolerant, so this is a great watermelon for marginal areas. Fruit range from round to oblong (with the occasional pear shape), solid green to beautifully patterned, with flesh in various shades of pink, and varying degrees of sweetness. Even the seeds vary, with some off-white and a few black, but most off-white with a dark line around the edge. They are quite striking, and also quite delicious themselves (watermelon seeds, known as "egusi" in parts of Africa, are an incredibly nutritious and underrated food). Some of these fruit have thick rinds excellent for pickling, and many have relatively dense flesh, making them excellent for candying. One fruit rolled under a piece of furniture in Nate's house once, unbeknownst to him, and remained there until its discovery in Spring. Shockingly, with no refrigeration, it was as good as the day it was harvested — if not sweeter. (There is a long tradition of Arab storing watermelons — see the 'Small Jadu'i' description.) As with all landraces, plant breeders could have a field day with these.
It is part of our mission to preserve and spread useful varieties from endangered communities, and no community on earth is more endangered than Homs, Syria. In the early days of the war — before it was clear that there would even be a war — Homs was considered the "Capital of the Revolution." Today, by all accounts, it is a hellscape. The population has been decimated. In 1949, when C.O. Eyer of the Near East Foundation collected these seeds, Homs was a veritable breadbasket. We remain hopeful that it will one day return to that status — and we look forward to returning these and other Syrian seeds to the people who return to rebuild.
These seeds were grown by our friend Olivia Gamber in Philadelphia.
GROWING TIPS: Direct seed or transplant healthy plant starts in May or early June after things have warmed up a bit. Plants will sprawl, but they are not overbearing. Plants should be 2-3 feet apart. Be careful with plant starts, as transplanting watermelon is a bit more precarious than transplanting other things, and sometimes it does not respond well. Nonetheless, it can still be successful. Direct seeding is the safer bet. Wants full sun.