Wednesday, September 14, 2011

19th Century Aromatherapy?

Amid the rows of cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes, and pole beans is a small patch of vines that look like they may hold cucumbers or squash, but instead these vines hold a magical little fruit. The orange striped fruit are actually small melons. They are called Queen Anne's Pocket Melons. Surprisingly, by at least the 19th c., they are used for nothing more then their scent and beauty as they are not considered palatable. They do not have much flavor.

I suppose you could call them a pomander if you would like, but whatever you choose to call them know that a lady's day is made better by keeping one in her pocket. By just reaching in her pocket, she could just lift the tiny melon and give it a good sniff . She would be greeted with an intense cantaloupe-style melon scent, and it is guaranteed to make her smile. 

Not practical, you say, and a waste of space in a garden that should provide a harvest for the household during the winter months? Depending on your perspective, you are correct, but for those that could spare just a small patch perhaps a 4'x4' area one would be be able to harvest many little melons. The melons themselves fit in the palm of your hand, and are usually not more that 3" in diameter. A bowl of melons placed on a table or sideboard would fill a room with a pleasant summery scent of melons. Its important to remember that beauty in many Victorian homes is practical and necessary. If while at work one could take a moment to sniff something that made one smile, that is a very pleasant necessity.

If you are interested in trying your hand at growing these little gems, you can find them on the Seed Saver's Website:


Marsha Carmichael, "Putting Down Roots: Gardening Insights from Wisconsin's Early Settlers", (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2010)

"Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen" (G.W. Johnson, Volume 11, 1866)

Vilmorin-Andrieux et cie, The Vegetable Garden, (London, John Murray Albermarle Street, 1885), (English Edition Published under the direction of W. Robinson)

"The Gardener's Chronicle: A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Horticulture and Allied Subjects" (London, Haymarket Publishing, 1894)


  1. I wasn't familiar with these before last year's Fair, but I really love them.

  2. It was only a few years ago when we learned of them. They are now my fvorite things in the garden. I love handing one to a visitor that is so unsuspecting. The smile that brightens their face once they take a whiff is priceless.

  3. I've heard of those, but I don't recall ever smelling one. Which Old World garden are they grown in?

  4. They are grown in the Sanford garden. Just a small patch, but they can be rather prolific.