< Vegetables



Cucumis melo

This diverse family of netted and ribbed sweet-fleshed melons attracted the attention of the horticultural experimentalist, the family kitchen gardener, and the commercial market gardener. A popular item in a rural or city market stall, the muskmelon might be an orange fleshed cantaloupe, a green fleshed citron melon, or a pale fleshed exotic such as the “White Japan.” Next to the watermelon, the muskmelon was the next most popular melon in cultivation, roughly about a third as many coming to market during the final decades of the 19th century. In the early 19th century the melons generated a great deal of bad press, being reckoned unhealthy, in large part because many were grown in forcing houses outside urban areas that used human waste (night soil) as nutriment.[1] With the rise of large scale market farming in the south during the 1860s, the field grown muskmelons grown in Virginia, Carolina, and Georgia enjoyed market premiums because they did not hail from the forcing houses. Their arrival at the city during the first week of August was a matter of rejoicing for shoppers.

Native to Persia, the muskmelon spread throughout the Old World during antiquity. They were among the earliest sorts of seeds brought by Europeans into the New World, being planted in the West Indies by the Spanish shortly after the settlement of Hispaniola. The green-flesh melons—the nutmeg and citron—were generally deemed sweeter than the orange fleshed varieties. Sweetness was generally deemed the single most desirable trait in melons. Local soil conditions, rainfall amounts, and exposure to sunlight contributed significantly to taste intensity of melons. Unlike watermelons that could be picked somewhat green and ripen off the vine, flavor in a muskmelon depended upon remaining on the vine until the moment of maturity. Consequently, a portion of the market crop perished en route to the market, for ripe melons were softer and more prone to damage from jostling during shipment. [2] Consequently, growers often sent melons to market unripe and untasty.

Grown by marketer farmers in loamy sand, the muskmelon did not demand much labor for up keep. Cultivated on hills with manure concentrations ringing the base of the mound, seeds were planted in the crown. After some weeks of growth growers culled the least vital of the vines.

Because the melons interbred readily with other varieties of muskmelons and watermelons if grown in too close a proximity, one grew only a single variety. Many hybrid forms appeared in the 19th century. Yet few varieties became commercial names handled by seed brokers until the 1890s when a boom in agricultural station breeding caused an explosion of types. The varieties listed here were those available at the very end of the 19th century.

In the field ripeness was determined by the ease with which the melon detached from the vine. In the market other criteria reigned: “It is said a muskmelon can be chosen by its odor. If it has none, it is not good, if sweet and musky it is quite sure to be ripe. Another indication of ripeness is when the smooth skin between the rough sections is yellowish green. To serve, cut the melons crosswise and fill with chopped ice an hour before using. Try pouring a little strained honey into the melon when eating.”[3]

Early in the 19th century the melon was viewed as an ideal breakfast starter, the best item to fill an empty stomach. During the gilded age, it became the initial course for the evening meal, eaten by itself or with something savory; never with other fruit.

1. William Andrus Alcott, The young House-keeper; or, Thoughts on Food and Cookery (Boston: Light, 1838), p. 256.
2. Alexander Fillipini, The Table: how to buy Food, how to Cook it and how to Serve It (New York: CharlesWebster, 1889), p. 18
3. Vaughan’s Vegetable Cook Book (New York: Vaughan, 1898), p. 34.

Acme    History

Fruits medium size, oval in form, with a slight neck at the stem end; well ribbed and heavily netted; skin a golden color when ripe; flesh firm and of good quality.

Arlington Nutmeg    History

A favorite in the Boston market on account of its fine flavor; flesh green and ripens early.

Baltimore Market    History

Oblong in shape, flesh orange, of fine flavor; midseason.

Banana    History

This name comes from the fact that the fruit is long and slender, with a banana-like aroma when ripe. The salmon-colored flesh is quite thick and firm, and is thought by many people to be of excellent flavor, although most people would prefer the Rocky Ford or Emerald Gem.

Banquet    History

Fruits are well netted, medium size; flesh salmon color and of excellent quality.

Burrell's Gem    History

Fruit oval in shape and of fairly good size; flesh an orange color, and has a very agreeable, spicy flavor.

Cassaba    History

Fruit large; flesh green and of good quality. One of the largest muskmelons grown.

Champion Market    History

Fruit resembles the Netted Gem, except that this is much larger; the flesh is green and of fine quality and a good shipper. Ripens early.

Chicago Market    History

This is one of the larger types of uniform size; skin thickly netted; seed cavity quite small; flesh green, of fine flavor; ripens early, but is a good keeper.

Cosmopolitan    History

"It is said to combine the firm, sweet flesh of the French cantaloupe with the delicious flavor of the American muskmelon." A very handsome, green-flesh fruit, slightly oval, without ribs. Color, light green, but at maturity it is covered with a dense silver-gray netting.

Defender    History

This is one of the best of the yellow-flesh varieties, of medium size, oval in shape; flesh firm and rich. Vines vigorous and productive. Needs plenty of room.

Early Christiana    History

Fruit yellow-fleshed, very rich and juicy.

Early Citron    History

An early, flattened sort; flesh green and of fair quality.

Emerald Gem    History

Fruit small, round, dark green; orange-colored flesh and very sweet; one of the best for home use and near-by market.

Fordhook    History

Fruit medium in size; flesh thick, orange-yellow color, of the highest flavor when well grown. A good shipper in baskets or crates.

Garden Lemon    History

Or Lemon Cucumber; fruits nearly round, yellow ground with green markings; a smooth skin; flesh very tender, and has a sweet, melon flavor. It is principally used for flavoring. Does not belong with the garden melon, botanically speaking.

Golden Jenny    History

A small, very early variety; a good shipper; said to be an improvement on the Jenny Lind.

Hackensack    History

This is one of the old, popular varieties, largelygrown in certain sections. The fruit is large, nearly round and of good quality.

Honey Drop    History

Fruit round, somewhat flattened at the ends; of good size; flesh thick, sweet and melting; a deep orange color; ripens very early.

Hoodoo    History

A popular variety in the Chicago market, where it brings the highest prices on account of its high quality. It is about the size of the Rocky Ford, but more round; flesh deep orange, with a small seed cavity.

Jenny Lind    History

This is a small green-fleshed variety of fine quality and ripening very early.

Jersey Belle    History

It is not so early, but much like Jenny Lind. Fruits flattened at the ends, with heavy ribs and coarsely netted. Flesh, green and good.

Kinsman's Queen    History

Similar to Emerald Gem in shape and quality, but much larger.

Knight    History

This is a popular variety in certain portions of Virginia, but is not very widely known.

Livingston's Market    History

Said to be able to withstand drought and other discouragements better than most other varieties; flesh green, of good quality.

Long Island Beauty    History

Tiis is of the Hackensack type—a very handsome early melon of the finest quality. It is popular in the eastern markets.

McCotter's Prid    History

A late variety, which has been bred for large size, but it has a fine-grained flesh and high quality. Nearly round; only moderately ribbed; dark green color; orange flesh, which is very thick, sweet, and of fine flavor.

Mammoth Prolific    History

A large-fruited variety, weighing from 12 to 15 pounds; deeply ribbed and covered with a coarse netting; flesh green and thick, with a fine flavor; ripens late, but the vine is quite hardy.

Mango Melon    History

Sometimes called vegetable peach. About the size and color of an orange, with a white flesh. Used for making sweet pickles and preserves. Belongs with Garden Lemon.

Matchless    History

Fruit of the Netted Gem type, but of larger size than that variety; averaging about 5 by 6 inches in diameter. The flesh is very thick, light green in color and of good quality. It is a good shipper.

Melrose    History

This is a very popular variety with some growers. It is nearly round, dark-green skin, changing to a russet color as it approaches maturity. There are no ribs, but it is thickly netted. The fruits run about 6 inches in diameter, with a thin but tough skin, making it a very good shipper. The flesh is light green, shading to a rich salmon color at the seed cavity. The flavor is excellent.

Milwaukee Market    History

Fruit light green, nearly round, slightly ribbed; flesh salmon color, of good quality; especially adapted to the home garden.

Montreal Market    History

A well-known variety, with flattened fruits, which are heavily ribbed. The flesh is green and of good quality. This is one of the old stand-bys in certain sections of the country, especially in Canada near Montreal. It finds a ready sale in the Boston market.

Netted Gem    History

A very popular variety in the middle West, where it is largely grown for shipping in crates and baskets; fruit round or slightly oval, rather small; green flesh of high quality. There are various strains of this variety, generally known by the shape.

Nutmeg    History

This name is very loosely used, it being applied to almost any of the smaller varieties. This, however, is a very early green-fleshed variety, of excellent quality, and was named from its shape.

Ohio Sugar    History

This is a green-fleshed Tip Top, said to be the sweetest and most luscious green-fleshed variety now on the market. Shape round, slightly inclined to oval; heavily ribbed and netted; skin grayish green; very prolific and solid enough for a good shipper.

Osage or Miller's Cream    History

The fruit is similar in shape to the Emerald Gem, but larger; dark green with light bands between the ribs; flesh thick, orange color, and of good quality. One of those varieties which are widely known among melon growers.

Prolific Nutmeg    History

A large-fruited variety, which is slightly flattened at the ends. Its quality is only medium.

Rocky Ford    History

This is a very popular variety in the West and South, as it is of convenient size to ship well, and is early in maturing. Many of the large growers look to Rocky Ford, Colorado, for their seed each season, and in this way are able to keep up the standard of excellence which is found in this variety, for it is a well-known fact that different soils and climate, together with the different methods of cultivation, will often affect, not only the quality, but the general type of melon produced. The Rocky Ford is an improved type of the Netted Gem, and when well grown is very sweet and fine flavored, scarcely excelled by any variety grown in its territory.

Rose Gem    History

Said to be an improvement on the Netted Gem.

Skillman's Netted    History

Fruits are oval in shape; ripens early; green flesh; sweet, with a rich perfume.

Spicy    History

This is one of the larger new sorts, sometimes measuring 9 or 10 inches in length and two-thirds as wide. The fruit is very solid, with a small seed cavity; flesh very thick and of a rich salmon color, with a fine flavor. The surface is smooth, except a slight netting, becoming a grayish yellow as it approaches maturity.

Strawberry    History

A very nice, red-fleshed variety, with a sweet strawberry flavor, weighing from six to eight pounds.

Surprise    History

Fruits oblong in shape, with a rich orange flesh of good quality. Ripens early.

Syracuse    History

This is one of the larger melons, with good quality. The surface is grayish green, with a light-green flesh. Also somewhat local in character.

Texas Cannonball    History

So named because of its round shape. It is handsomely netted, with a green flesh, and is said to be very prolific under good cultivation.

The Grand    History

This is a popular variety in the middle West, where it is grown quite extensively. It is too large for packing in baskets or crates, and so is usually shipped in bulk like watermelons. The fruit is nearly round, somewhat flattened at the ends, strongly ribbed, and slightly netted. Flesh yellow, sweet and juicy, of high quality.

White Japan    History

An early variety, with a white skin and light green flesh; belongs in the novelty class.

Melon (Mrs. Owen's New Cook Book 1897)    History

To serve nutmeg, cantaloupe or muskmelon, cut in lengthwise sections, remove seeds, put a lump of ice in the hollow and send to table with pepper, salt and sugar, giving guests their choice of condiments. A garnish of green leaves is very pretty. Frances Emugene Owens, Mrs. Owens' New Cook Book (Chicago: Owens Publishing, 1897), p. 572.

Cantaloupe Frappe (Vaughan's Vegetable Cookbook 1898)     History

Select two large cantaloupes that are ripe and of fine flavor; cut into halves and scrape the pulp from same after removing the seeds (not using any of the rind); put the pulp through a potato ricer, which will keep out all the stringy parts; add to the pulp a pinch of salt, four tablespoonfuls of powdered sugar and a gill of cheny juice (sweetened with a spoonful of sugar), or use some other nice tart juice. Soak a tablespoonful of gelatine in a quarter-cupful of water; then set cup in pan of boiling water until it is dissolved; add this to the prepared cantaloupe and when cold turn into a freezer and freeze slowly. Serve in sherbet glasses. Mrs. Sadbtte Harrington, Vaughan's Vegetable Cook Book (New York: Vaughan, 1898), p. 34

Cooked Muskmelon (Vaughan's Vegetable Cookbook 1898)     History

Miss Corson, in one of her lectures, gives the following directions for making a very nice dessert from muskmelons:—Make a rich syrup from a pound of white sugar to half a pint of water. Pare and slice the melon and boil it gently in the syrup five to ten minutes flavoring with vanilla or lemon. Then take it up in the dish in which it is to be served, cool the syrup and pour it on the melon. To be eaten cold. Vaughan's Vegetable Cook Book (New York: Vaughan, 1898), p. 35.

Muskmelon Preserve (American Housewife 1841)    History

Procure muskmelons that are perfectly green, and of a quick growth, and as late in the season as possible. If preserved while the weather is very hot, they are apt to ferment. Scrape off the skin of the rind, being careful not to scrape any of the green part. Cut them through the middle, and take out the seeds—then cut them in rings, an inch in thickness. Soak them in salt and water a day, then in fair water three or four hours, changing the water several times. Soak them in alum water an hour—rinse and put them in fair water, with a handful of peach leaves to four or five pounds of the melon, and a table-spoonful of ginger, tied up in small pieces of cloth. The peach leaves turn the melon a fine green color. Boil the melons till they begin to grow tender, then put them in alum water, together with the ginger. Make a syrup of white sugar, and put in the melons and ginger, (which should be previously rinsed.) Boil them in the syrup as long as you can, without their breaking to pieces. In the course of a week turn the syrup from them, scald it, and turn it on to the melons. Add sufficient essence of lemon to flavor it, just before turning it on to the melons. Keep them covered tight, in a cool place, with a paper wet in brandy on them. Pp. 108-109.

Mangoes--Pickled Muskmelon (Harder's Practical American Cookery 1885)    History

The small young and green citron, or cantaloupe melons, can be used. Cut out a small piece of the melon, wedgeshaped, so it can be replaced nicely, scoop out the seeds, replace the plug, and put the melons in the jar or barrel that you intend to fill. Make a brine, using one pound and a quarter of salt to a gallon of water, and boil it. Then pour it boiling hot over the melons, cover the barrel, and in three days drain off the brine, take the melons out of the barrel and stuff them the same as pickled stuffed bell peppers. Then put them in jars, pour some cold boiled wine or cider vinegar over them, to cover, put a small piece of alum in each jar, and cover them tightly. Jules Arthur Harder, The Physiology of Taste; or, Harder's Practical American Cookery (San Francisco, 1885), p. 213.

Muskmelon Pickle (Vaughan's Vegetable Cookbook 1898)     History

Use ripe muskmelons, pare, remove seeds, and cut in pieces and put into a stone jar. Cover with scalded vinegar and let them stand until the next day, when the vinegar must be reheated and poured over them again; repeat this until the fourth day, then weigh the melons and to every five pounds of the fruit allow three pounds of sugar and one quart of vinegar with spices to suit. Let all simmer together until the fruit is tender. The second day pour off this syrup, and boil down until it shall only just cover the melons. The result justifies the pains taken. Vaughan's Vegetable Cook Book (New York: Vaughan, 1898), p. 34.