The Crane Melon Barn and the Crane family have a long rich history in Sonoma County. Richard Hope Crane was the first of the Crane’s to arrive back in the gold rush days. He settled on the current land and built the all redwood Crane Barn in 1868. His son Oliver Crane developed the Crane melon by crossing four different melons, Japanese, white, Persian and Ambrosia. He began selling the melons out of the barn in the 1920′s…and people have been visiting the Crane Melon Barn and enjoying these wonderfully sweet and aromatic melons for over 80 years. The farm is currently owned and operated by Richard and Jennifer, 5th and 6th generation Crane stewards of the land.
These melons have a fairly short season. They are in season from September through October. But please call the farm first to make sure they are open and available. You will rarely find these melons in conventional markets due to the fact that they are vine ripened and do not travel well. The Crane melon is unique to Sonoma County and a heirloom variety. Slow Food includes the Crane as the only melon variety in its “Ark of Taste”.
When we visited the farm last week we were having our (hopefully) last punch of hot weather, it was over 100 degrees here for a couple of days. The first thing that greets you is the perfume permeating the air with a sweet ripe fragrance. On the far side of the barn sits a large mound of teardrop shaped yellowish orbs. They are picked in varying stages of ripeness. As it had been so hot the melons were over ripening on the cool floor where they are on display. I asked the very nice lady manning the store to help me choose a perfect one. She asked if we were going to eat it today or tomorrow. As I was planning on making sorbet on that hot day we choose a ripe, fragrant and slightly soft to the touch melon.
I was a pastry chef for many years and Crane melons never crossed my path before. It is definitely not something you would cook. It is probably best eaten fresh and sliced right from the skin, as my 2 year old would attest to. As I was chopping the fruit up and processing it in the food processor he was telling me “no mama… no mama, I want some more”. It is amazing what children want to eat when they visit the farms and see where the fruits and vegetables actually come from.
I decided to make a simple Crane Melon Sorbet. Again probably had something to do with the fact that it was 103 degrees on the day we went out to the barn. The sorbet was garnished with pomegranate seeds. Now I have to confess a digression here. The pomegranates are from a tree in my back yard. YAY! for fruit trees in our backyard!
Crane Melon Sorbet
4 cups melon, seeded, peeled, cubed
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1/3 cup tangerine juice
salt, a pinch
Make simple syrup. Place water and sugar in a small saucepan bring to a boil and let boil for two minutes. remove from heat and cool.
Prepare your melon. Wash outside, cut in half, remove seeds and peel. Chop the melon into large chunks. Process the melon in a food processor until smooth.
Add to the melon puree, cooled simple syrup (to taste) depending on the sweetness of your melon, you may need less syrup. Add lemon and tangerine juice, salt and zest.
Chill at least three hours in the refrigerator or overnight. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
We garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds and refreshed ourselves on a very hot Indian Summer afternoon here in the Valley of the Moon.
Crane Melon Barn
4935 Petaluma Hill Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95404