by Max Brantley
I bury the lede on this item only to explain how big a deal it is to see Hope watermelons featured prominently this week. It's an article (and this photo) not about Hope monster melons but a trend toward smaller, seedless melons. A taste:
IN this dusty field filled with experimental watermelons off Highway 174, there is but one sound that matters.
It’s a deep, soft pop, like a cork slipping free from a wine bottle. You hear it when a pocket knife cracks the green rind on a watermelon so full of wet fruit that the outside can barely contain the inside.
Terry Kirkpatrick, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Arkansas, spends a lot of time here popping open watermelons. He’s searching for deeply colored flesh that is crisp but not crunchy and so juicy that pools fill the divots left by a spoon.
The taste has to be exceptionally sweet but just slightly vegetal, so you know it came from the earth and not the candy counter.
These days, a good watermelon also has to ship well, which means a thick rind and a uniform shape. It has to be small enough so people pushing grocery carts in big-city stores will buy it. And it can’t have seeds.
All of that describes his small hybrid triploid beauties with names like Precious Petite and Orchid Sweet. They are very likely the future for many watermelon farmers, but they are also heartbreakers for a lot of people around southwest Arkansas who miss the old-fashioned seeded melons that now grow in only a few fields.