BOGUE — You know a Bogue Sound watermelon when you taste one. It’s sweeter than any other watermelon.
That’s what Billy Guthrie says. And he’s an expert Bogue Sound watermelon grower.
The crop with its striped light and dark green outer shell yields a bright red and juicy fruit that comes seedless or with seeds and are on sale now at local farmers’ roadside stands.
The Bogue Sound Watermelon is special, Mr. Guthrie said, because only watermelons grown on land next to a tributary that runs into Bogue Sound can be called by the name.
Mr. Guthrie has been in the watermelon business for years and his family has been growing watermelons for generations. He can tell you a thing or two about what makes a Bogue Sound Watermelon different than others.
Some watermelons grown in other states are not nearly as sweet, and even those grown in this state that are not Bogue Sound Watermelons aren’t as sweet, he said.
One watermelon goes for about $7 at Guthrie Farms roadside stand, where coolers filled with ice keep slices of the watermelon chilled for people wanting to try before they buy one.
Also, slices of chilled cantaloupes that Mr. Guthrie said are called Aphrodites are ready for eating. The same land that farmers use to grow Bogue Sound watermelons yields cantaloupe, yellow and white sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumber and squash, Mr. Guthrie said.
“The land has so much potential,” he said.
Mr. Guthrie and a handful of other farmers in Carteret, Onslow and Craven counties grow Bogue Sound Watermelons and make up the Bogue Watermelon Growers Association, which was incorporated in 2005.
That summer the growers applied for and received a trademark sticker that shows everyone which watermelon is a Bogue watermelon and which is not.
“If it doesn’t have the sticker, it’s not Bogue Sound,” Mr. Guthrie said, adding that any one who is selling “Bogue Sound Watermelons” without the sticker is falsely advertising.
Mr. Guthrie said about 10,000 of these watermelons can be brought to market during the season if everything goes right – and there are a lot of little things that need to go right, like temperature, the amount of rain and the amount of bugs.
And if everything goes right, a watermelon season can last from the end of June to after Labor Day, Mr. Guthrie said.
But don’t count your crops until every melon has been brought in from the vine.
“From the time you plant that seed you have a constant battle and you can’t count nothing until you bring them in,” he said.
Mr. Guthrie plants three crops at different times so not all the watermelons come into market at the same time. If he did, he said they would all be gone in the first month.
And this season has been difficult. The heat and the lack of rain have been constant, which has made the watermelons sweeter than ever but has reduced the number available, he said.
“June was 90 degrees with not an inch of rain,” he said and spoke of fellow farmers who were losing crops and money spent on fertilizer and seeds because of the hot, dry spell.
“You just have to go down to Bucks Corner and look at the corn,” he said. The corn crops are visibly smaller than usual, he said.
Last year many chain food stores like Lowes Food and Walmart were able to get crates of Bogue Sound watermelons for sale. This year only the roadside stands have them.
Mr. Guthrie said he has gotten calls from the big chain stores asking about the watermelons and if they could have some to sell, “but there just aren’t enough,” he said.
But he isn’t counting his losses or wins yet. There is still over a month left until Labor Day and Mr. Guthrie’s roadside stand has an abundance of the juicy fruit.
WHERE TO FIND THEM
Bogue Sound watermelons can be found at the following roadside stands:
• Guthrie Farms, Highway 24 in the town of Bogue east of Emerald Isle.
• Bucks Corner Farm, Highway 58 in Peletier.
• Riggs Farm, three miles west of Swansboro on Highway 24.
• Garners Farm, off Highway 24 between Newport and Morehead City.
• Winberry Farms, Highway 24 in Cedar Point.
• Willis Farms, across from Newport Middle School.
• Quinn Farms, intersection of Nine Foot Road and Nine Mile Road.
• Will’s Produce, in Peletier.