Palmer man grows record cantaloupe

Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2004

ANCHORAGE - A Palmer man has done the impossible in any other Alaska summer: growing a record-breaking cantaloupe, a fruit that craves heat and founders in rain.

In a season marked by hotter and dryer weather than usual, Scott Robb has produced a 64.8-pound muskmelon - an unofficial world record. He plans to enter the colossal fruit in the Alaska State Fair in Palmer next week.

The yearly fair draws crowds gawking at giant produce that thrive in the Matanuska Valley's rich glacial soils and long days. But those are cold-weather crops, such as cabbages and kohlrabis.

Growing a mammoth melon in Alaska is unheard of. The current world-record cantaloupe belongs to a grower in the loamy, sun-baked fields of North Carolina. So did the record before that.

While Southcentral Alaska's warmer-than-usual summer is good news for melon growers and zucchini or even pumpkin farmers, the heat is hard on cabbage, according to growers.

Robb, a perennial winner of giant produce competitions, started his cantaloupe in a greenhouse in April. He hand-pollinated the melon, then surrounded it with mousetraps to deter rodents.

Then it grew. And grew.

Buying a melon this size at Anchorage grocery stores - where cantaloupe prices this week range from 69 cents a pound to $1.49 a pound - would cost between $44.70 and $96.50. So it's better for most folks to stick to the average four-pound cantaloupe.

The official weight of Robb's melon came in 1.3 pounds over the current record. Guinness World Records still needs to certify it, a process that can take up to six months.

Robb, a longtime farmer, owns four world records: a 75.75-pound rutabaga from 1999, a 42.4-pound kale and 43.7-pound kohlrabi from 2001, and last year, a 63.3-pound celery.

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