In England, cucumbers and melons had a reputation of being difficult to grow. Jane Loudon writes in The Lady’s Country Companion (1845), “I would not advise you to grow cucumbers or melons; but, should you feel inclined to try your skill, you have only to have a hotbed. . .”
On the other hand, both cucumbers and melons were grown in slave gardens. Colonel Landon Carter records in his diary in June of 1771 of a visit to see his slave, Jack Lubber, “I found him prudently working amongst his melon vines.” Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughter, Anne Cary Randolph, records purchases from local slave gardeners of over 550 cucumbers, 6 musk melons and 18 water melons between August 1805 and October 1808.
Several varieties of watermelon are known in Virginia with both red and yellow flesh. The Carolina Watermelon is one of the oldest named varieties in this country. Another old watermelon is a variety called Rattlesnake, developed in Georgia, probably in the 1830s.
Past year’s gardens have boasted the lilliputian pocket melon, grown solely for its fragrance today but apparently for culinary uses in the 18th century.