The muskmelon, a native to southern Asia, cultivated by the ancients, has been grown for many centuries in European countries and is now a popular vegetable in many parts of the world.
Thousands of acres of muskmelons are grown annually in the United States. The acreage is especially large in New Jersey, Maryland, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, Colorado, Arizona, Virginia and Texas, with extensive areas in many other states. It has advanced rapidly in commercial importance during the past 10 years. Enormous quantities are shipped to the great markets and thousands of gardeners supplying local markets find it a profitable crop. The home garden is not complete without it. No vegetable or fruit is more appreciated in its season. With our varied climatic conditions the product is sent to market from early summer until late fall. It is a close rival of the peach for dessert purposes.
The long, slender, flexible, almost cylindrical stems bear leaves variable in shape and size, although usually kidney-shaped, rounded and often folded or waved on the margins and frequently cut into three to five lobes. While tendrils are supplied, the plants are creeping and do not need support in field culture. The muskmelon has been considered monoecious ódistinct male and female flowers produced on the same plant; while investigations made at the Vermont Experiment Station (Vermont Station Bul. 70, p. 18) show that the flowers are generally perfect. In 83 out of 93 varieties examined the pistillate or female blossoms contained stamens and pollen. The remaining 10, consisting entirely of the larger varieties, were monoecious. The fruits are extremely variable in size, shape, color, markings, firmness, texture, color and quality of flesh.
The New Hampshire Experiment Station (Technical Bul. No. 2, and also the supplement to this bulletin) has divided American muskmelons into eight groups, as follows:
"Small size, flattened at the ends, average weight less than 2 3/4 pounds." This class includes Jersey Belle, Emerald Gem, Jenny Lind, Christiana, Shippers' Delight and True Jenny Lind.
"Small size, oval shape, average weight less than 2 3/4 pounds." The type includes Rocky Ford, Golden Gem, Paul Rose, Pineapple, Netted Gem Round Netted Gem and other varieties cataloged since the studies were made at the New Hampshire station. This is very much the most important type commercially.
"Medium size, flattened at ends, average weight 3 to 6 pounds." Subtype (a) "shallow ribbed, netted," including Ironclad, Early Nutmeg, Chicago Nutmeg and Improved Jenny. Subtype (b) "shallow ribbed, not netted," including Satisfaction, Irondequoit and other varieties. Subtype (c) "deep-ribbed cantaloupes." Belonging to this group are Hackensack, Extra Early Hackensack, Nutmeg, Long Island Beauty, Surprise, Perfection and others.
"Medium size, oval shape, average weight 3 to 6 pounds." Several prominent varieties belong to this class, as Green-Fleshed Osage, Montreal Nutmeg, Tip Top, Miller's Cream and Giant Chicago Market.
"Medium size, oval shape, no ribs, average weight 3 to 6 pounds." Among the varieties belonging to this type may be mentioned Perfected Delmonico, Blenheim Orange, Cosmopolitan and Superior.
"Medium size, oblong shape, average weight 3 to 6 pounds." Subtype (a) "shallow ribbed," including Netted Nutmeg, Anne Arundel, Honey Drop, Acme and others. Subtype (b) "shallow ribbed," including Triumph and Lone Star.
"Large size, long shape average weight over 6 pounds." Granite State, Cassaba, Long Yellow and Imported Cantaloupe are the chief varieties.
"Large size, oval to oblong shape, average weight over 6 pounds." The varieties are Bay View, Large White French and Large Black Paris.
Many varieties of muskmelons are grown for commercial purposes in the United States, although the shipping trade is limited largely to the Netted Gem or Rocky Ford type. The market demands mainly a small melon of the highest quality; the producer desires a variety which is early, prolific, hardy as possible and disease-resistant. From the standpoint of producer, dealer and consumer it is important for the fruit to hold up well after picking, to stand shipment and retain its good qualities as long as possible. The following are the most important varieties:
Rocky Ford, decidedly the most important variety grown in the United States, is of the Netted Gem type, oval in shape, about 5 inches long, and, when well grown, of the best flavor. The flesh is light green and of smooth texture. It is grown extensively in many of the great producing districts.
Jenny Lind is a small, round, early melon, popular in some parts of the East. The vines, which are medium in size, are productive.
See Rocky Ford.
Fruit of this variety is small, globular, ribbed, lightly netted, dark green; flesh green; quality very good.
Jersey Belle resembles Jenny Lind, but is larger and not so early. The fruits are round or oblate and prominently ribbed; flesh green and quality desirable.
Grown largely in Canada for the eastern markets. Fruits very large, green-fleshed and of good quality. They command the highest prices of any melons sold upon our markets.
Paul Rose is a cross between Osage and Netted Gem. Fruits small, spherical, ribbed; flesh yellow and sweet.
Osage Or Miller's Cream is an excellent midseason variety. Fruit medium in size, flesh deep, yellow and of good quality.
Eden Gem is grown almost entirely around Salisbury, Maryland. It is prolific and of high quality.
Burrell Gem is a comparatively new variety, valued in some sections. The flesh is orange color and of high quality.
Hackensack And Early Hackensack are green-fleshed varieties of good quality.
Commercial growers of muskmelons should conduct variety tests until they have determined the varieties best suited to their soil, climate and market conditions. The different sorts vary greatly in their adaptation to soils, some succeeding better on heavy soils than others.
The term "cantaloupe" applies to a type of rough, warty, scabby melons grown in Europe but seldom seen in this country. This word is said to have been derived from the name of a village near Rome. The name has no specific meaning in America, for it is given to all types of muskmelons.