The Pecos area of West Texas began irrigation and cultivation of the cantaloupe in the early 1900s. By 1913, Pecos cantaloupes were famous for their sweetness and overall flavor. The term “Pecos cantaloupe” would be promoted in the public consciousness to a level similar to “Swiss cheese” and “Maine lobster.” A Pecos Cantaloupe Festival is held each August.
The name “Pecos cantaloupe” is not trademarked and is not considered a botanical name.
Cantaloupe (also cantaloup) refers to two varieties of muskmelon (Cucumis melo), which is a species in the family Cucurbitaceae (a family which includes nearly all melons and squashes). Cantaloupes are typically 15–25 cm in length and are somewhat oblong, though not as oblong as watermelons. Like all melons, cantaloupes grow best in sandy, well-aerated, well-watered soil that is free of encroaching weeds.
The European cantaloupe is Cucumis melo cantalupensis. Its lightly-ribbed, pale green skin looks quite different from the North American cantaloupe.
The North American cantaloupe, common in the United States and in some parts of Canada, is Cucumis melo reticulatus (or sometimes C. melo melo var. cantalupensis), a different member of the same muskmelon species. It is named reticulatus due to its net-like (or reticulated) skin covering. In Australia and New Zealand, it is called rockmelon due to the rock-like appearance of the skin of the fruit. It is called a spanspek in South Africa, where it is harvested during the summer months October through February. It is a round melon with firm, orange, moderately-sweet flesh and a thin reticulated light-brown rind. Varieties with redder and yellower flesh exist but are not common, and they are not considered as flavorful as the more common variety.
The cantaloupe was named after the commune Cantalupo in Sabina, in the Sabine Hills near Tivoli, Italy, a summer residence of the Pope. It was originally cultivated about the year 1700 from seeds brought from Armenia, part of the homeland of melons.
The most widely enjoyed variety of European cantaloupe is the Charentais, cultivated almost exclusively in France. Pope Innocent XIII(1721-1724) is said to have enjoyed sipping Port wine from a partially hollowed melon half as an apéritif.
Cantaloupes were first introduced to North America by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1494. The W. Atlee Burpee Company developed and introduced the “Netted Gem” in 1881 from varieties then growing in North America.
Wikipedia: Pecos, Texas
Pecos is the largest city and county seat of Reeves CountyGR6, Texas, United States. It is situated in the river valley on the west bank of the Pecos River at the eastern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert and the Trans-Pecos region of west Texas and near the southern border of New Mexico. The population was 9,501 at the 2000 census. The city is a regional commercial center for ranching, oil and gas production and agriculture. The city is most recognized for its association with the local cultivation of cantaloupes. Pecos claims to be the site of the world’s first rodeo on July 4, 1883.
Pecos is one of the numerous towns in western Texas organized around a train depot during the construction of the Texas and Pacific Railway. These towns were subsequently linked by the construction of U.S. Highway 80 and Interstate 20. Prior to the arrival of the railroad, a permanent camp existed nearby where cattle drives crossed the Pecos River. With the introduction of irrigation from underground aquifers, the city became a center of commerce for extensive local agricultural production of cotton, onions and cantaloupes.
City: Pecos | Region: Big Bend Country
Grown in irrigated fields, luscious melon is the delight of gourmets throughout the United States. Quality derives from natural combination of alkaline soil, western sunlight and altitude. Pecos cantaloupes enjoy comparable status with Maine lobsters, French wines and Swiss cheeses. Harvested late July through Sept. with a festival held in late summer.
The Pecos Texas Visitor’s Guide
The Pecos Cantaloupe
Nationally famed melon, originated in this city. Residents from 1880’s grew melons in gardens noting sun and soil imparted a distinctive fl avor. Madison L. Todd and wife Julia came here from east Texas and New Mexico. In 1917 Todd and partner, D. T. McKee grew 8 acres of melons, selling part of the crop to dining cars of Texas & Pacific Railway, where Pecos Cantaloupes fi rst became popular and in wide demand. McKee soon quit business, but Todd remained a leader for 41 years. Famed lecturer Hellen Keller, presidents Eisenhower and Johnson and many other distinguished persons have ordered and appreciated Pecos Cantaloupes. Exclusive clubs in New York, Chicago, St. Louis and other cities are regular clients of Pecos growers. Genuine Pecos Cantaloupes begin ripening in July and continue on the market until late October. The varieties are the same as those grown in other areas. Climate, soil and special cultivation methods account for the distinctiveness of Pecos melons. 2000 acres are now planted annually, M.L. Todd was known in his later years as Father of the industry. He and his wife and family were leaders in civic and religious enterprises.
Pecos Cantaloupe Industry
“Mr. Pecos Cantaloupe”
He is acknowledged as the father of the industry: “Mr. Pecos Cantaloupe,” M.L. Todd. His full name was Madison Lafayette Todd, but I never heard anyone address him on the street as anything other than “Mr. Todd.” Madison Todd was born in 1875 in Gladewater (Upshur County), Texas.
Building a Reputation
In Pecos, Granddad and the uncle of the young man who had purchased his New Mexico homestead, Mr. D.T. McKee, became business partners. At this time in Pecos, small acreages of cantaloupes were already being grown and sold locally. Mr. McKee knew that there was something special about cantaloupes grown in Pecos soil, under irrigation. He was perhaps the first to see the possibilities of selling them to out of town customers. Their first “commercial” customer was the Dining Car Service of the Texas and Pacific Railway Company. (Little did they know that the growth of the Pecos cantaloupe industry would be entirely dependent on the railroad and the Railway Express Company.) Their T&P customer proved to be a special blessing, and was critical to the start and direction of the fledgling Pecos cantaloupe industry. However within two years, family obligations caused Mr. McKee to sell his interest to Granddad Todd and return to his former home in Virginia. Granddad continued with the business, shipping to a few more customers each year.
Patrons in the T&P Dining Cars were impressed with the look, texture, and taste of the breakfast cantaloupe they were served, and some asked where they were grown. The T&P graciously provided them with Granddad’s address, and some began to send in orders. Granddad saw a new way to make his business grow: specializing in shipments of Pecos melons to individuals. Shipments were made directly to their homes by Railway Express. As these shipments continued through the twenties, the word about “Pecos Cantaloupes” began to spread and the small industry grew. More acres were planted, and other growers joined the business.
6 March 1912, Dallas (TX) Morning News, pg. 14:
Pecos, Tex., March 6.—Contracts have been signed up between the officers and members of the Pecos Cantaloupe Growers Association, guaranteeing approximately 300 acres in cantaloupes for this section.
14 May 1913, San Antonio (TX) Express, “Reeves County Thrifty; Irrigation Is Magic Key,” pg. 12:
Demand All Over United States for Famous Cantaloupes
The newest crop of this irrigated valley, which is destined to make a name for it in all parts of the United States, is the famous Pecos Valley cantaloupe, a melon that cannot be excelled either by Rockyford or by any other district that is growing them. This broad statement is made from the fact that under the supervision of the Pecos Cantaloupe Growers’ Association for 1912 three melons were shipped to all parts of the United States, and a hundred letters and telegrams were received stating, “The Pecos Valley cantaloupe is in a class by itself, please increase our order, as we cannot furnish our trade fast enough.” These being facts, the melon growers’ association to increasing its acreage, and at the present time more than 400 acres have been contracted. The highest grade trade in towns and cities in different parts of the United States has already asked for some of these melons. The flavor and keeping quality have placed the melons on the market to stay.
24 July 1932, Amarillo (TX) News-Globe, pg. 6, col. 1:
KNOWN FOR FLAVOR
PECOS, July 23 (AP)—First ripe cantaloupes are expected in the Pecos area about August 1 with carload shipments scheduled to begin moving on or about August 10. A bumper yield is forecast with a possible total season’s shipment of 800 to 3,000 cars out of the Pecos Valley.
The cantaloupe industry in the valley got its first national recognition last season when pecos cantaloupe topped the highly competitive market at New York City for several weeks, one carload bringing $5.50 a crate.
As a result of the favorable price received for the 135 cars shipped last year, the industry has been greatly expanded with about 2,500 acres cultivated in cantaloupes in the Pecos Valley, and an additional 1,000 acres near Carlsbad and Artesia, New Mexico, this year.
The Pecos Cantaloupe Association, of which K. M. Regan of Pecos is president, has contracted to pack and ship all Pecos melons this year under a trade name of “Pecos” cantaloupe.
The Pecos cantaloupe is superior, its partisans say, because of its exceptional taste and texture. The mineralized soil around Pecos, which raises the “alkali flats” of this neighborhood, is given credit for the superior flavor of the cantaloupes.
26 August 1938, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section 1, pg. 4 ad:
Fresh From Valley Shippers. Each ... 10c
(Hunt Grocery Co.—ed.)
17 August 1957, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, “Pecos Melon Crops Processing Opens,” pg. 13, col. 4:
Reeves County has more than 1,200 acres of cantaloupes planted and one of the best crop yields in the melon’s history is anticipated for this season.
Todd’s Cantaloupes, Tri-State Cantaloupe Co. and Parkhill Produce Co. are the three leading packaging and shipping centers of the Pecos cantaloupe.
Rain on cantaloupes can be costly. The rain soaks the rind, then the hot West Texas sun causes the melon to expand and crack open.
The Pecos cantaloupe has long been noted for its extraordinary taste.
27 July 1969, Odessa (TX) American, “Pecos Cantaloupe On Way To Market,” pg. D1, col. 7:
What makes the Pecos cantaloupe so popular?
Larson says that to be a quality cantaloupe, its meat should be sweet.
In agreement with him, Foster adds that the very small seed cavity in the melon is also a prime factor in the Pecos cantaloupe’s popularity.
Whatever the reason, the Pecos cantaloupe is undisputed in its national popularity.
Cooking Texas Style: Tenth Anniversary Edition
by Candy Wagner and Sandra Marquez
Austin, TX; University of Texas Press
Pickled Pecos Cantaloupe
The small town of Pecos is located on the Pecos River in West Texas—the most arid part of the state, primarily used for cattle ranching. It is in this unlikely farming area that the gem of cantaloupes is grown—the Pecos cantaloupe. To enjoy this flavorful fruit all year, put up some Pickled Cantaloupe.
4 large cantaloupes
6 cups white vinegar
6 cups sugar
2 tablespoons pickling spice
6 cinnamon sticks (...)
Blue Bell Creamery
Making Texas Cows Proud
a story by R. W. APPLE Jr., published in The NY Times on May 31, 2006
When they saw me drooling unashamedly at the prospect, the kindly folks in Brenham promised to send me some Cantaloupe and Cream this summer. It is made only from July 4 to Aug. 4, when cantaloupes from Pecos, the state’s best, reach peak ripeness
Monday, June 26, 2006
Best In The West !! Texas That Is
Seems everyone who has been in Texas for any time has heard of the famous Pecos Cantaloupe. The origins are pretty definite as to growers but not so definite as to source. Most of the information I can gather indicates the seeds came from an imported load of Israeli melons - name not known. One thing SURE is it is by far the best tasting canteloupe available. Too bad they are not as available as they once were. Drought and copy cats have messed up the market and “Pecos Cantaloupes” now may or may not be the real thing. The best way to tell the real thing by appearance is they are almost perfectly round and the seed cavity is also almost perfectly round and TINY - a little bigger than a golf ball. Soil make all the difference so if you plant a seed from a real Pecos cantaloupe in your garden you may not get the flavor of one grown near Pecos, TX. When you find a Pecos cantaloupe it has real flavor because they are only picked when ripe not picked near-ripe and allowed to “ripen on the truck”. Even Blue Bell Ice Cream comes in Pecos Cantaloupe flavor !!!!!!!!!!!
Google Groups: austin.gardening
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2006 06:47:44 -0500
Local: Sat, Oct 21 2006 6:47 am
Subject: Re: Pecos Cantaloupe!
> Roger, I think you’ll find that there’s not a variety known as the
> “Pecos cantaloupe”; it’s just that the Pecos County area has the right
> soil and climate conditions to grow great cantaloupes:
> “Terry Holder, Extension agent in Reeves County, said the crop fared
> well this year, with good yields being reported from early fields. He
> said the salty, sandy soil in Pecos, Reeves, and Presidio counties
> produces cantaloupes with a unique, sweet flavor.
> “If you haven’t had a Pecos cantaloupe, you haven’t had a cantaloupe,”
> Holder said. “The flavor is unmatchable.” “
That is the way I understood it too, from my local fruit stand owner. I would have to second the “unmatchable” comment. I ate those cantaloupes all summer and will never buy one in a store again. They were so much better.
With hope and heart,
Google Groups: austin.gardening
From: “Jim Marrs”
Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2006 22:32:18 GMT
Local: Tues, Oct 24 2006 5:32 pm
Subject: Re: Pecos Cantaloupe!
I grew just a few miles from Pecos Texas where Pecos cantaloupe are grown. They are grown around the Pecos/Coyanosa, Toyah and Barstow area of West, Texas. They get their sweet favor from the unique alkaline soil in the Pecos area. The cantaloupes from Del Rio are not Pecos cantaloupes. Del Rio is about 240-250 miles from Pecos. Pecos cantaloupe usually are picked the first 2- 3 weeks in July.
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Wednesday, January 09, 2008 • Permalink
looking for cantaloupe and other produce
for resale in north texas