How the cantaloupe melon received it’s name spanspek

A Spanish Lady leaves a lasting Impression

Lady Juana Maria Smith loved and was loved wherever she went. Those who met her on her adventuresome path of life at the side of her beloved husband were enchanted. In South Africa her memory even lives on in the name of a fruit: the cantaloupe or rock melon is called spanspek in South Africa.

Lady Juana’s husband, Sir Henry Smith (who preferred to be called Harry), served the British crown as governor of the Cape Province, where he and his wife enjoyed great popularity with the Xhosa as well as the Boers. According to legend from the couple’s South African years Sir Harry loved bacon and eggs for breakfast. Lady Juana, on the other hand, didn’t like bacon and preferred cantaloupe melons. In the Smith household these melons were soon known as the ‘Spanish bacon’, or ‘die Spaans se spek’ in Afrikaans. Apparently this is how this particular type of melon got the name ‘spanspek’ in South Africa.

Lady Juana Maria Smith

Lady Juana Maria Smith



Cosy breakfast times aside, the Smiths actually lived in rather turbulent times. Their love story began during the Peninsular War in 1812 when British troops stormed the Spanish town of Badajoz and then went on the rampage. Among the inhabitants who fled the looting and sacking were two sisters of noble birth. The sisters sought the protection of British officers and 23-year-old Captain Smith was so smitten with the younger sister, 14-year-old Juana, that they were married within two weeks. Juana became a true army wife who followed her husband to every battle.

The Smiths came to South Africa in 1828. The names of several towns and places still testify to their popularity. They were ordered back to Britain in 1852. Lady Juana wept when she boarded the ship. In the years to come she declared on numerous occasions that the time in South Africa had been the happiest of her life.




8 thoughts on “How the cantaloupe melon received it’s name spanspek

  1. I am South African and was trying to find out how to tell when a Spanspeck was ripe when I read this most interesting information.

  2. I just discovered one and after reading this I seriously think its tasty.. I hope it is.. I knew Spanspek was the Afrikaans name from it..

  3. I live in Israel
    And was eating a melon when the name spanspek came to light
    I googled it and found this interesting article
    Also did not know whom Harrysmith and Ladysmith were named after
    So from eating a melon
    Learnt some new facts today

    • Dear David, Thank you for your response. We are happy to hear that you have learnt a few facts from the article, For more interesting content please keep checking our blog updates on Fridays. Best wishes, Koney

  4. Another Suid-Afrikaner here. I was just browsing where some fruit came from and found this very interesting tidbit. (a direct translation we sometimes use to mess with people, is “team bacon” (‘span’ = ‘team’)).

    • Hi Koos, We would like to thank you for your contributions. Do not forget to keep up with our blog, Every Friday we have something new to share! Stay well and kind regards, Koney

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