CUCAMELON


By Pat Fuller

OSU Extension master gardener volunteer

The seed catalogs had lots of new plants this year.

If you have ever ordered from one, you are probably on at least one mailing list.

I’ve found that many companies share that list with others, so you probably were inundated this year.

I ordered and received 17,000 seeds for my gardening endeavors this year, 720 herb plugs and 31 flats of annuals, so I am set.

Along with the usual stars, there is always something new that catches my eye.

In the January/February Horticulture magazine, I found an article titled “Cool As a Cucamelon,” and a photo of a hand holding what looks like miniature striped watermelons.

It seems this newly popular vegetable to northern gardeners is actually a Mexico/Central American heirloom crop better known as Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers (Melothria scabra).

The article proclaims it has “robust growth, cold tolerance and ridiculously high production.” I’m in!

The plant reportedly doesn’t do much until we experience some really hot days in July, then the aggressive vines soon become loaded with tiny yellow blossoms. By mid-August, you can expect your harvest to begin.

The inch-long fruits, sometimes nicknamed “mouse melons,” taste more cucumberlike with a lemon finish than the miniature watermelons they resemble.

They aren’t the least bit sour as the name suggests.

Once mature, they will drop off the vine when ripe, so you will have to check the garden daily.

You can expect each plant to produce vines to 10 feet long that can be trellised or grown on an A frame, and each plant will yield 65 to 90 fruits per season.

The article goes on to explain that though the fruit is prolific, very few make it all the way back into the kitchen as the hungry harvesters pop the grape-sized crunchy treats into their mouths as they go.

Mexican sour gherkins can be started indoors now (for USDA Zone 6A, formerly 5A) in 4-inch pots and will need to be staked.

They require full sun and are generally pest- and disease-free.

They can be ordered from many online seed catalogs and are not very expensive per seed.

Secession planting is recommended for continuous harvest.

These plants will be ready for sale in one of my other volunteer adventures at Packard Park Greenhouse.

Our group will have a plant sale featuring these and many other plants May 2 and 9.

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