Some time back while driving east on FM 125 between Leham and Bledsoe I saw small melons growing near the road. My first thought was “gosh Buffalo Gourds sure get big in these sand hills”. As any plant watcher would do I pulled off the road for a closer look. The gourds were about 6 to 8 inches in diameter and green like a watermelon and even had regular watermelon stripes. The first clue that something was not right was the difficulty I had in cutting the melon. Not exactly mission impossible but close to it. Once I reached the resistant insides I found a light green rather tart meat.
Again as plant watchers sometimes do, I took a specimen with me on to my destination which was Milnesand NM. If you ever want to go “home” just find Milnesand on the map (that is if you can) and head that direction. Nice people with big hearts and a warm welcome is what you will find. The Parkinsons were some of these nice people in Milnesand. At the time of my visit Elton was 88 years old and his wife Ruby was 86. They live just north of MIlnesand.
They invited me to Sunday dinner and it was there I learned more about the little green melon. It is called a Piemelon and it grew wild in the fields when Elton was a boy. In the times of drought one of his jobs was to pick Piemelons and break them with an axe and feed them to the hungry cattle. The pesky little melons caused problem when making milo bundles with a broadcast binder. The melons would roll into the binder and stop the binder. Many lost hours of making shocks were due to the little green monsters.
Ruby and her brother-in law shared with me that it did have some good merits. Preserves were made using the Piemelon and pickles were made from the melon using cinnamon red hots for flavor and color. In the South according to Ruby's brother-in law they used the melon for a ball and a hickory stick for the bat. I asked him if the melon ever broke and he said "not very often".
Now how did this green melon come to the sand hills of WestTexas and eastern NM? Some say it is from Africa and it the ancestor of our present day watermelon. Called the Tsamma melon ( Citrullus lanatus var. citroides ) and that is was brought to the New World by the Spaniards in the mid 1600's.
In Wildflowers of the Llano Estacado Rose and and Strandtmann have the following :
Of course these melons are introduced to the New World they are found growing wild in the sand hill and in in sandy areas, especially around what used to be the Bloated Goat Liquor Store near Bledsoe...You can tell piemelons from watermelons by driving over fruit in a truck: if the melon remains intact, it is a piemelon!
Now that is handy information to have, good luck on finding those piemelons.
Judith Jones is a Certified Texas Master Naturalist Panhandle Chapter
Photos - Troney and Joanne Toler