Turkmen melon
Turkmen melon has been famous for its taste and fragrance since ancient times. It was considered a heavenly food giving vital energy and prolonging youth. Avicenna had noted the healing qualities of the melon in his treatises. The Turkmen land was located in the center of trade routes between Europe and Asia. From here, caravans heading for India, China, Arabia and European countries took melons along with other goods. Both in the West and in the East these products were highly valued and only wealthy people could afford it. Melons were exchanged for gold and silver as to their weight. These products decorated the dining table of emperors and shahs, princes and sultans, kings and caliphs. The history accounts numerous evidences of exalted testimonials about melons. Here is what the founder of Great Mogul dynasty Muhammet Babur wrote in his book Baburname: "They brought me a melon with high honor. When I cut it and began to eat, it had a striking effect on me that I almost burst into tears".

Fast-ripening and winter ones, large as boulders and the size of apple, sweet Turkmen melons have become a symbol of human being’s harmony with the nature. Maximum of sunshine and minimum of water gave the Turkmen melon such a taste and fragrance that it can’t be mixed up with the taste and fragrance of melons grown in other, even neighboring countries. The most ancient sorts of melon originate from the 12 century, and the youngest sorts were cultivated in early new millennium.

It has become a good tradition in Turkmenistan to mark the second Sunday of August as a holiday of the "queen of melon plantation". Melon bears this name in the country by right. This year it is marked for the 14 time. The festivities are held nationwide and all over the country. They are accompanied by concerts, exhibitions and treatments with juicy fruits of the melon plantation. It is not by chance that this day is called as a "sweet holiday".

The contest held in the frames of the holiday arouses the great interest of the Turkmen people and guests. It has several nominations like "Golden Melon", "Giant Water-melon", "Giant Pumpkin", "Astonishing Melon Plantation" and "The Best Breeder". Melon-growers are the main characters of the holiday. They come from all parts of the country to share their experience and tell about the achievements. Usually, they don’t like to come to the holiday with empty hands, therefore they may produce new sorts of melons as a gift. One should say that being a breeder on melon crops is an honorable profession but at the same time difficult and responsible one. By their taste and diversity of sorts the Turkmen melons stand out from the world assortment and rightfully called as one of the best. The wonderful qualities of the Turkmen melons were bred in the course of many centuries. Therefore, melons like Akhalteke horses, Turkmen carpets and Turkmen herding dogs, alabais, are considered the national property and unique heritage that ancestors left for us many centuries ago.

The task of scientists is to preserve and to increase these riches to the extent possible. It should be just pointed out that the specialists are highly qualified and cope with their mission excellently. The characteristics of melons are defined on many parameters: taste, fragrance, appearance, productivity, portability and other qualities are assessed. Three years ago, a scientific experiment was held. 192 sorts of melons with 120 local sorts and 72 from neighboring countries, Japan, China and Arabia were grown. The comparable analysis has once again confirmed that the Turkmen sorts exceeded the foreign ones on all parameters.

The Turkmen melons have one peculiarity. If it is grown in the other location, it loses its best qualities. Numerous attempts to broaden the geography of Turkmen sorts produced no positive results.

Currently, there are 430 sorts of local melons. Certainly, we cannot tell about all of them. Therefore, we will give generalized characteristics. Melons contain from 10-12% to 17-19% of sugar depending on the sort. The crop capacity ranges from 5000-6000 kg to 40-45 tons per hectare.

The earliest sort "Kyrkgyz" ripens in May, the latest ones or winter sorts such as "Garrygyz" are harvested in September and October. Taking into account the possibility of keeping these sorts during several months, fresh melons can be eaten for almost a year. The "Dessemaya" is the smallest, decorative sort of melon. It has a round shape, 5-6 cm in diameter, weighs usually 50-100 grams. This "kid", despite it tiny size, is very odorous and preserves its fragrance during a long time. The biggest of the Turkmen melons is "Myhmansovar" (hospitable). It has an elongated shape, with length reaching up to 1 m and weighs 20-25 kg. Interestingly, how many guests should be invited to eat it?

Melons are not only eaten in the fresh kind. The East, as is known, has always been famous for its sweeties. A lot of products are made of melons. The most common one is dried melons, or "gavun kaky". Jams, juices, honey are also made. If one is lucky, one can taste such exotic product as "idjan" – melon halva. I can assure these products will satisfy the taste of the most captious sweet-eaters.