A Pocketful of Melon

– Posted in: Garden Design

Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon

I’ve been wanting to try growing Queen Anne’s pocket melon (also known as plum granny, vine pomegranate, dudaim melon, apple melon, and vine peach or peach vine) for several years. So when I noticed that Seed Savers Exchange had the seeds for sale, I quickly added them to my spring order. The description there echoed what I had read about this novelty: that “Victorian women carried these in their pockets for the perfume-like qualities.” Well, all I can think is that pockets must have been a lot larger back then, because I sure can’t imagine carrying around one of these rather soft, tennis-ball-sized melons in my jeans all day.

Pocket melons with tennis ballAnother claim I’ve heard is that “just a few fruits can perfume an entire room.” Sure, a very tiny room, maybe. But I’ve had a half-dozen on the kitchen counter for the past week, and apart from the occasional whiff of almost-overripe-cantaloupe, I don’t get much from them, scent-wise. They are very pretty to look at, though, with their striped orange-and-yellow skins. The unripe fruits are cute, too: They’re deep green with light green markings, rather like tiny watermelons.

Ripe and unripe pocket melons with ‘Rita’s Gold’ Boston fernThe plants were easy to grow, at least. I sowed three seeds in a 3.5-inch pot in late May, set them out in the garden as a clump in mid-June, and had ripe fruit by early September. The plants grow rather like pumpkins but on a much smaller scale. Reaching about 6 inches tall, the compact leaves and vines of my clump covered a space about 16 feet square and produced several dozen fruits before succumbing to bacterial wilt. With that many pocket melons in one place, I guess I should be grateful that they weren’t as powerfully fragrant as they’re supposed to be.

Would I grow Queen Anne’s pocket melon again? I have a number of seeds left, so I might, just to use them up. I’m glad to have tried them once, and the plants did make an interesting temporary filler, but beyond that, I didn’t see much point to them. I wonder if there are other strains that have better scent, or if they’re more fragrant if grown in a different climate. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has tried them and thought they lived up to the hype!

Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

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Kris at Blithewold September 18, 2007, 6:33 am

Greetings from Blithewold – We tried them last year – planted on the sweet pea fence after we pulled those around July 10th or so. That must have been too late to plant for fruit because they never ripened to that beautiful orange (I have to admit I thought they were done at green! – and was a little disappointed at the lack of serious scent. Go figure!)

Nancy J. Ondra September 18, 2007, 11:27 am

Great idea to grow them on a trellis, Kris. That would show off the ripe melons much better. I didn’t realize that my plants had fruited until the vines were almost dead.

Rurality April 15, 2008, 12:56 pm

We grew them a couple of years ago here in Alabama, and they didn’t have a very strong scent here either. (Seeds were from Baker Creek.) They had a nice scent, but you had to be nearby to smell it.

Mice and other small critters in the garden loved them though… frequently there were several small bites taken!

Thanks for sharing your experience. I found that the fruits were more fragrant after sitting in a bowl indoors for a week or two, but they were getting pretty soft by that point: definitely not something I’d want in my pocket.
-Nan

Becca July 20, 2009, 6:41 pm

I am growing pocket melons right now here in NW Florida. So far, they’re still at the green stage. I wonder if the scent is released by the warmth of the body? That would be the reason for being in the pocket AND why you didn’t smell much with them simply in the bowl. I’ll have to carry one around in my apron pocket and see! Thanks for your great review of the plant.

Mary E. Howard August 25, 2009, 2:38 pm

I have seeds saved as of this moment, from Plum Grannys we purchased in Cleceland, Tn. a week ago (Aug. 17) from an elderly man with a roadside stand. I LOVE those roadside stands, edible treasures and EDUCATION all rolled into one! My experience was that YES they were fragrant from day one just sitting in the fruit bowl in the kitchen. I cut one open to sample the next day and found it to be interestingly tasty yet on the low end of flavor and sweetness. Five days later I ate another–definitely sweeter now. Today, exactly eight days after purchase, I have cut the remaining (the skin has become ugly now, with spots). They were delicious! Much sweeter now and with flesh that is wonderfully mellow and “spoonable” right out of the ugly skin! Don’t let the exterior spots deter you–the flesh is fine. I have read that our hotter climate produces sweeter Plum Grannys. I don’t know about that but I am eager to try this for myself. here in Alabama. Already I am thinking of recipes!! I read that they are common to Appalachian areas. Also I read that they date back at least 1,000 yrs. Would like to know more about that. My final equasion is “Like many people–the older , spotted and wrinkled exterior belies the sweet, mellow richness inside”.