Bradford Watermelon has a backstory so unique it sounds like fiction. According to Southern Living, a bartender in South Carolina who serves up Bradford melon cocktails tells this story to bemuse his customers:


A prisoner of the Revolutionary War named John Franklin Lawson, scored a wedge of watermelon as a water source on a pirate ship bound for the West Indies. It tasted so good that he saved the seeds for his eventual return to the States. Around 1840, Nathaniel Napoleon Bradford crossed the Lawson watermelon with the Mountain Sweet, and the Bradford was born.

While the story sounds like something from a Disney film (it's all true, btw), the reality is that Bradford Watermelon is supposedly so epic-ly delicious and un-shippable (because of its thin skin), A New York couple even took the long drive from Long Island to Sumter, South Carolina to purchase more than a dozen of the infamous melons, take a few pics at the farm and head back to enjoy--presumably- at block tasting party.

The Bradford Watermelon Company
Courtesy of The Bradford Watermelon Company

The melon is reportedly so delicious--from rind to flesh--each part of the melon is used for commercial cookery. The rinds become his late gramma's excellent rind pickles. Some of the harvest become Bradford Watermelon Brandy. And some of the 30–40-pound fruit is processed into a rare red molasses.  Wherever fresh Bradford melon shows up on a local menu--it sells out. It wasn't that long ago that lore of the heirloom Bradford watermelon that was once thought extinct, swept the national imagination; and so the limited amount of Bradford seeds that were for sale were selling out on the first few moments of the presale. There's more to the Bradford Watermelon story, of course. You can read more about it here. And here.

While Bradford seeds have a 90% germination rate, the fruit had only been growing on the Bradford Sumter, SC farm for 100 years, so growing in Upstate, NY climates is a challenge. Which is why, for most Upstate New York gardeners, except those with a diligent spirit, the best chance we have to taste an authentic Bradford watermelon, is to pre-order a dozen or so melons, gas up the minivan and take the 13+ hour trek to Sumpter,

Courtesy of The Bradford Watermelon Company
Courtesy of The Bradford Watermelon Company


take some photos at the farm and head back Upstate for a block tasting party. Would you travel 13+ hours and back to taste this iconic melon?

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