Step up to the Plate: 'Nutmeg' Melon

Philip Kauth, PhD, assistant curator, and Steffen Mirsky, horticultural technician, make up the Seed Savers Exchange Evaluation Team.  The Eval Team is the division of the Preservation Department that keeps detailed records of more characteristics than most people know an individual variety can have. Their work helps us differentiate between the varieties in our collection and describe them clearly in the Yearbook. 

Step up to the Plate is a blog series in which the evaluation professionals profile a variety that stands out to their distinguished senses each month. 

July 2015: Melon 150 'Nutmeg'

Seed Savers Exchange adopted an accessions policy in December 2013 to help us manage our vast seed collection.

The primary goal of the accessions policy is to ensure that the items in our collection are aligned with SSE’s mission. The accessions policy identifies several categories that are a priority in the collection, including U.S. heirlooms, SSE exchange heirlooms, historic commercial varieties, and modern commercial varieties.

  • U.S. heirlooms include family or community heirlooms that have a history of stewardship in the United States.
  • Historic commercial varieties have been in the seed trade since at least 1950, while modern commercial varieties were not known before 1950 but have at least a 35-year history of use.
  • Exchange heirlooms are a class of U.S. heirlooms with at least a 20-year history of being listed and shared by members in the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook or Online Seed Exchange.

Melon 150 ‘Nutmeg’ is one of the many varieties in the exchange heirloom category.

Since it was first offered in the 1984 yearbook, ‘Nutmeg’ has been offered by 12 members over a 31 year span.  ‘Nutmeg’ can also be classified as an important historic commercial variety.  

Fearing Burr mentioned ‘Nutmeg’ in his 1863 classic The Field and Garden Vegetables of America. Burr stated that this variety, which belongs to a larger type of melons that shares the name ‘Nutmeg’, was widely cultivated and fairly common in vegetable gardens at that time. ‘Nutmeg’ was appropriately named because it resembles a nutmeg seed in shape, netting, aroma, and taste. 

He described it as a pale green, oval melon with thick netting, a thin rind, and light green flesh. He mentioned that the flavor is rich and sweet with a strong aroma.

Behold 'Nutmeg', the most delicious melon you'll never have to share.

In 2013 we evaluated ‘Nutmeg’ and found that our description closely matched Burr’s, but the fruit we grew were slightly smaller on average – the perfect single-serve melon – compared to Burr’s description.  [Editorial note: It’s the melon world’s answer to the Personal Pan Pizza.]

Unlike the ubiquitous “cantaloupes” in today’s supermarkets, this melon has a divine aroma and flavor whose complexities are difficult to capture in words – sweet, spicy, nutmeg-like, with a distinctive floral aftertaste. If you are looking for an alternative to today’s standard melon, look no further than ‘Nutmeg’.

2014 Yearbook Description:  A staff favorite for taste in 2013! Round, medium-small, heavily netted fruit.  Moderately ribbed.  Green while immature, becoming pale yellow-orange at maturity.  Fruit easily abscises from vine when ripe.  Pale green flesh with a very thin rind.  Placenta develops orange hue when very ripe.  Market mature fruit measure 3-4.3" long by 3-4.1" wide and weigh 10-19oz.  Excellent, complex flavor.  Spicy flavor resembles nutmeg.  Very sweet and juicy.  Floral aftertaste.  Mid-season maturing.  Average productivity when grown in 2013 at Heritage Farm.

Read more about the Accessions Policy here 

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.