In the 1950s, 60s and even into the 70s, we didn't get a lot of fresh state-side fruit that tasted good. By the time it got to the islands it had seen better days. Apples were usually bruised and mushy, same with pears. Watermelons tended to be over-ripe with that slightly sour/sweet flavor they get when they're starting to rot and honeydews tasted like a weak glass of water with a smidgen of sugar stirred in. Grapes were often green and sour. Cherries (a mouth-watering favorite of my sister and I) were often starting to get soft and grow that white mold they grow when they've been in the fridge to long. Forget about peaches and berries.
We had better luck with citrus, but even oranges and tangerines could be dried out and juiceless. And when in came to cantaloupes they were always picked so green that if they became edible they had little or no flavor.
One day while we were living at Caneel Bay, back around 1958 or 59, my father came home and announced he'd made a discovery at the hotel dump. It was a place where mostly plant and vegetable matter (both from the kitchen and the grounds) was tossed.
What could it be? He took Mom, Erva and I and showed us. There amidst the garbage was a cantaloupe vine, and on it, apparently quite happy with its environment, was one small cantaloupe. Obviously seeds from the kitchen had gotten tossed and one seed and managed to sprout and was endeavoring to produce some fruit.
Well, we were all excited and Dad promised to keep an eye on it, to protect it from predators, from having more stuff thrown on it, to occasionally give it some water, but most particularly to keep it hidden from other humans. We wanted that cantaloupe all to ourselves.
Erva and I must have asked him every day if it was ready to pick. But no, it wasn't, we had to wait. Eventually the day came when he brought it home, a large round cantaloupe that smelled.... oh yum, like heaven! Up to this point I had no memory of ever eating a cantaloupe that was any good.
Mom put it in the refrigerator and as the next day was Saturday, promised we would have it with a breakfast of pancakes and waffles.
There was anticipation as she brought it to the table. Anticipation as she cut it in half releasing a wonderful aroma. She carefully scraped out the seeds and cut the halves into quarters. We each got a whole quarter! Spoons in hand, we all dug in, put the fruit into our mouths and moaned...
...in utter delight. Never before had we had such a juicy sweet aromatic cantaloupe. And to this day, no cantaloupe as ever tasted as wonderful as the one grown in secret at the dump at Caneel Bay.
Out of garbage good things can come.
Do you have a fruit story? Ever grown one, or stolen one, that had particularly good flavor?