What vegetable grows like a cucumber, looks like a teeny watermelon, can be eaten raw and has a hint of lime flavoring? It's a cucuamelon.
Cucamelon is not a cross between a cucumber and watermelon, but it sure looks like it. They are also called Mexican sour gherkins or mouse melons. They are so cute! This Central American native vegetable vines like a cucumber, and produces an abundance of 1-inch long oblong, striped fruits that look like miniature watermelons. The taste is like a cucumber with a slight lime flavor.
Cucamelons grow best in full sun, with warm temperatures and fertile soil. Basically, you grow cucamelons like you would a cucumber. Plant cucamelons after all danger of frost has passed on compost-amended raised beds. In cool locations, start the slow to germinate seeds indoors a few weeks before planting to give them a head start. The vine is aggressive, so it needs a trellis to support its growth.
Soon after flowering, start looking for the 1-inch long fruits. For the best flavor, pick them young, when they are about the size of a grape, while they are still tender. The more you pick, the more they will continue to produce. Although a perennial in their native lands, cucamelons will die off with our cool weather in fall.
Eat cucamelons raw, mixed in a salad with other vegetables and olives, mixed in a fruit salad, pickled or even in cocktails as a unique alternative to an olive. Cucamelons pack all the antioxidant and health benefits of cucumbers and melons, so eat away and enjoy this quirky South American vegetable.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about companion planting. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.