Citron melon, a rare melon for jam: planting, growing and care

Citron melon

Citron melon, or “jam melon“, is related to watermelon.

Key Citron melon facts

Name: Citrullus lanatus var. citroides
Common: citre, fodder melon, tsamma, red seed melon
Synonyms: Citrullus caffer, C. amarus
Family: Cucurbitaceae

Type – vegetable/fruit vine
Planting distance – 3 feet/1 m apart
Exposure – full sun

Soil: rich, deep, well-drained   –   Bloom: summer   –   Harvest: late summer, fall

Keen growers know that citron melon is a valuable heirloom fruit. Indeed, the neutral taste helps other, more delicate, fruits go a long way when making jams and jellies.

Growing and caring for citron melon

Citron melon careCitron melon grows as an annual vegetable or fruit in:

  • temperate climates with cold winters
  • hot climates with a rainy and a dry season.

In tropical climates or places with mild winters, the same plant may keep growing and fruiting throughout the seasons for several years.

Planting and sowing citron melon

Planting citron melonSowing from seeds is the most common way to grow it.

Make sure soil is very rich and deep.

Sprout seeds in spring indoors, transfer outdoors after the last frosts. Space plants by at least 3 feet, ideally 6 feet (1 to 2 meters). They grow very large!

Most of the roots are concentrated in the top 18 inches of soil though, or 45 cm.

→ Prepare soil to a depth of at least one foot. This is important.

Caring for citron melon

Plentiful water and lots of sun will lead to huge fruits. Pinching fruits so that only 3 remain will ensure each one grows very large.

Citron melon varieties

There are two groups of citron melons.

  • In Africa, North America, and a few other countries, the most common type of citron melon is very close to wild citron melon. Fruits are round and a bit bitter when raw. They’re never as bitter, though, as the colocynth herb to which they’re related.
  • In Europe, however, citron melons have much larger and sweeter fruits. Selection by market gardeners over centuries resulted in more productive and appealing harvests.

Some varieties have reddish seeds, hence the common name in those areas: red-seeded melon.

Benefits of citron melon

Apart from the high pectin content ideal for jam, citron melon also has lycopene. Lycopene is an anti-oxidant.

  • Lycopene in the blood flow reduces incidence of chronic illness, as well as cardiovascular sickness and prostate cancer.
  • It functions as a hypocholesterolemiant, meaning it reduces cholesterol levels.
  • Also, it has anti-inflammatory properties.

Cooking with citron melon

Citron melon cookingIt has dense, white flesh that is a bit hard to cut. It feels a bit slimy to the touch.

  • Cutting citron melon is a bit dangerous. It’s similar to raw butternut or squash. Get a large cutting board and adequate knives.

Seeds are either green or red seed. They’re spread out throughout the flesh.

Citron melon jamEven after harvesting, they still continue to ripen a bit. There’s no need to “leave them on the vine” once the vine has died out.

Citron melon can keep for months if in a cool, dry and well-ventilated pantry.

This is an excellent fruit to extend flavors of berries and other fruits when preparing jam, since its taste is neutral.

Images: CC BY 4.0: Marius; dreamstime: Maryna Lipatova, Vynikal; own work: Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois