Cucumis melo subsp. melo
Origin: Raqqa, Syria
Improvement status: Landrace
Seeds per packet: ~30
Germination tested 11/2022: 92%
Life cycle: Annual
In all honestly, we have little to report about the virtues or uses of this melon, other than that it is a variable landrace from the Syrian city of Raqqa. We don't even have a photo. Dusty grew it in Minnesota in 2020, but because he missed the optimal harvest time, never managed to taste it. The fruit were rotting in the field by the time he went to harvest it. The seeds gleaned from the rotting fruit are fine — germinating at 91% over a year later — but the fruit remain a mystery to us. Minnesota is not a great place to grow most melons anyway, so it's likely that even if Dusty had caught it at the right time, it probably would not have demonstrated its full potential. Normally we wouldn't even consider selling seeds from such a crop, but given its provenance, and since we may not grow it again for some time (if ever), we want to give you all the chance to try it. Please let us know how it does — and take some pictures!
What we can say about this melon is that we got the seeds from the USDA, which got it from the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) in Rome, which got it from the Syrian Agriculture Research Directorate, which collected it 3 kilometers south of the city of Raqqa, in Raqqa Province in 1986. Raqqa is most well-known today for being the "capital" of the so-called Islamic State from 2014-2017, and for having been largely destroyed in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. But the city has a long and rich history, dating back to at least Bronze Age Babylon, when a city called Tuttul was located in the region. Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines controlled the city for various periods, and it was taken over by Arab Muslim general Iyad ibn Ghanm (a companion of the prophet Muhammad himself) in the early days of Islam, around the year 640. Christians and Jews retained freedom of worship there, and are present in the historical record to at least the 1200s, when Raqqa was destroyed by Mongol invaders. Bedouins and Ottomans later ruled the region. Kurds in the 19th century and Armenians in the early 20th notably found sanctuary there, fleeing persecution and genocide.
We grow plants like this to be able to tell stories like these — not least so Americans might get to know Raqqa not for the atrocities committed there, but for its rich culture and history, of which this melon is a part.
GROWING TIPS: Direct seed into garden when soil has warmed up over 65 degrees F, or transplant healthy plant starts into ground. Plants should end up 18-24 inches apart in rows 4-6 feet apart. Plant will sprawl.