Melons and Gourds

Curious about melons and gourds before the 17th century? Ever wonder about those Coucumbers (sometimes “Cowcumber”) or Pompeons? Here is a section of one of my favourite 16th century publications known as the Four Books of Husbandry. Edit: It has been brought to my attention that I did not cite this page properly, and who knows, much of my blog and website are probably not properly cited, and this is plagiarism. This is all on me, I figured that naming the book as above with quotes below for the sections I transcribed in quotes and my commentary not in quotes but in italics, was enough to be clear I was not claiming this work as my own. Please read all the quoted area as from the 1570’s book by B. Googe called the Foure Bookes of Husbandry and the stuff in italics as my own commentary, be it correct or not… these are just me thinking out loud, please interpret on your own. I have read material from the 17th century that paints a different picture but that is what makes this entirely fun. Thank you for putting up with my sloppy transcribing!
***further note, for those who have not followed my husbandry posts, this is indeed a continuation of my posts from my retired blog (which I should probably move here to avoid further confusion):

Melons from Tacuinum Sanitatis
Melons from Tacuinum Sanitatis

“Melons (which some, because they are fashioned like Apples call Pomes) are of the kinde of Coucumbers, and so are the Pepones which the Frenchemen call Pompeons. The Coucumbers in Greeke [word in greek lettering], in Latine Cucumer, in Italian Cucumero or Cedruolo, in Frech & Dutch Cocumbre. They change to Pompeons, and Muskemillions, from whiche they onely differ in shape and greatnes: when they exceede in grearnesse, they become Pompeons, and when they growe rounde, they are Mellonpompeons: all these kindes are called of some wryters Melons. The Grecians call all the sortes, as well Coucumbers ad Mellonpompeons, by the name of Pompeons and Melons: though there are some that make a difference betweene Pompeons and Mellons, neither doo the learned yet throughly agree uppon these meanes, nor can it bee certaynely saide what kinde of the olde writers ment by Pompeons, and Melonpompeons.”

–This is interesting as I’ve known people to interpret “Pompeons” as “Pumpkins” and though new world gourdes were known at some point, it seems here we are talking about melons.

“Pompeons doe creepe a long upon the ground with ruffe leaves and yellowe flowre, and are pleasaunt to be heaten when they are ripe. The sweetest sorte of them they call Succrine, or Muskmillions. The Mellonpompeons are supposed to spring first in Campania, beyng fashioned like a Quince. This kinde hangeth not, but groweth rounde lying uppon the ground, and beeying ripe, doe leave the stalke.

Some Coucumbers are called Citrini, of their yellownesse when they be ripe, and also Citruli or Citreoli, they growe all in length, and are spotted as the Citrons are: some be called Marin, and be called in Italian Cucussa Marina, the seede whereof is to be eaten before they be ripe: they are cut in peeces, and porredge made of them, not muche unlike in fashion to the Melon.

There is also an other kinde of Coucumber of a houge compasse, almost as bigge as a bushell: the Mowers and Harnest folked in Italie, use to carrie greate pieces of them to the feelde with them, to quenche their thyrst. You must set all these kindes in March, the seedes must be set thinne, two foote one from an other, in watrie ground well dounged and digged, specially sandy grounde: you must lay them in Milke, or Water and nony three dayes: and after drye them and sowe them, so shall you have them very pleasaunt. They will have a very sweete savour, if their seedes be kept many dayes among Rose leaves. Your Coucumbers shalbe long and tender, if you set under them water in a brode vessell, two handfulles under them.

They delight in water so much, as if they be cut of, they will yet bend towarde it, and if they hang or have any staye, they will grow crooked, as also if you let oyle by them, whiche they greatly abhoure. The flowers beyng suffered to growe in Pipes, doo growe to a woonderfull length. They love not the Winter no more then doth the Gourde, whereunto they are almost like in nature, for the flowres, the leaves, and the claspers, are like of them both: but the Gourde is more busie in clinnnyng, so that with hastie growth, it spreadeth quickly over the herbes and summer houses, runnyng by the walles, and mountyng up to the very Tyles of the houses, having a great fruite of a monstrous bignesse, hangyng by a small stalk, in fashion like a Peare, and greene in collour, although when it hath flowred, it will growe in what fashion you will have it: they say, there hath been some of them niene foote in length. The rounde ones also growe to be used for great vesselles: the rynde of the newe ones, is soft and tender, but of the olde ones hard, whereof when the meate is out, trauaylers make great bottles to carrie drinke in. ”

picking gourds, Tacuinum Sanitatis
picking gourds, Tacuinum Sanitatis

“The Gourdes that are used to bee eaten in sommer, are sundry in shape, for some are rounde, some long, some broade: and though the fashion be divers, yet the nature is all one: for it is made by arte to growe in what shape you will, as in the forme of a creeping Dragon, or what you lift, they are called in Greeke [more Greek lettering], I Italian Zuma, in Spainshe Calabaz, in Dutch Kuirbisch, the French Vne courge. The seedes that the Gourde beareth next to the stalk (as Paladius sayth) are longest, they in the middest rounde, and those that lye on the side, short, broade, and flatte: if you set the sharpe ende of the seede downwarde, as Columella sayth, you shall have them both greater Gourdes and Coucumbers. It delighteth in a moyst, ritch, wel dounged, and well watred ground. That which groweth without water, bringes the pleasanter fruite, and that whiche hath water yenough, needes the lesse looking to. The flowers where they beeset, must bee digged a foote and a halfe deepe, the thirde parte whereof must be filled with strowe, and then with doog ritche mould: it must be filled to the middest, then the seedes beyng set, must be watred tyll they be sprong, and after, eath layd to them still as they growe, till the Furrowe be filled. They must be set thinne, two foote a sunder, it commeth up in sixe or seven dayes after the setting. Those that are sette in drye grounde, must bee verie well watred, therefore they use to set by them earthen pottes full of water, with ragges or cloutes in them to water them. When they bee a little growen, they must have helpes set by them to climbe uppon, the longer they bee, the better the meate is.”

“You must beware there come no woman neare where you set them, for their presence dooth greatly hurt them.” –Though notice that the picture from Tacuinum Sanitatis shows a woman right in the thick of it, maybe this was a later development 😉

“Those that you keepe for seede, you must suffer to remayne uppon the stalke tyll Winter, and then geathering them, and drye them, eyther in the sunne, or in the smoke, for otherwise the seede will rotte and perishe. They will long bee preserved and continue freshe, if after they bee gathered they bee put into a close vessell with the Lees of white wine, or hanged in the vessell of vinegar, so that they touche not the vineger.”