Mexican Sour Gherkin (Cucamelon)
Seed Count: Approx. 10 seeds
Days to Maturity: 70-75 Days
Description: Mexican sour gherkins, also known as cucamelons and mouse melons, are a distant member of the cucumber that originates from Mexico, and Central America. Cucamelons produce 1 inch fruits that resemble mini watermelons. Cucamelons are described as tasting like a sweet cucumber with a shocking pickled aftertaste. They make for great toppings on salads, fresh eating straight off the vine, garnishes in gin cocktails, and taste delicious pickled with peppers and garlic. These plants look delicate, with cute tiny leaves, but are super productive and produce loads of fruit all season long. These plants are perfect to grow vertically on trellises, and do well in containers, making them great for small space gardeners. Plus you’ll almost never see these little cuties in grocery stores and markets, making them an excellent addition to any garden. Plus, they are rarely bothered by pests!
How To Grow
Sowing: For gardeners in warmer climates you can direct sow seeds outdoors, but if you live in a colder area, you should start your seeds 6 weeks before the last frost. Start seeds in pots that are at least 4 inches, so that the roots have room to grow before being transplanted. You might want to start your seeds in peat pots in order to minimize transplant shock.
Growing: Harden off, and transplant your seedlings outdoors, once the risk of frost has passed. Be careful not to disturb their roots when transplanting, and pick a location with full sun and rich soil. If you live in an area where the climate can be a bit unpredictable in the spring, then provide your plants with row covers until the weather is more stable. Cucamelons do not tolerate frost, so this is important to do if cold weather threatens, however, they can tolerate cool springs. They really thrive in the heat, and that’s when they really start to grow. Provide cucamelons with a trellis to climb. It will keep foliage and fruits clean, which will reduce diseases. It will also make the fruit easier to pick and find as well. If you wish to let them sprawl on the ground, keep in mind that they will take over your garden bed rather quickly. These plants can be heavy feeders so provide them with a good composting when you transplant them, keep them evenly watered, and avoid watering their foliage to minimize disease. While these plants are slow to grow at first, they will really kick up the pace once the summer heat rolls in. Companion plant with amaranth and sunflowers; they make great trellises for these cuties..
Harvesting: Cucamelons are ripe and ready to harvest when the fruit drop from the vines. However, you can harvest them before they drop from the vine, when they are about 1 inch long, to reduce their sour bite. If allowed to drop to the ground, their skin will fully develop their signature sourness. Once the first flowers appear, you can start checking your plants about a week later, for ready to pick fruit. If you wish to save seeds, harvest any fruit that you find on the ground. Scoop out the seeds and place them in a cup, with a bit of water, and let them ferment for 3-4 days. Fermenting increases germination rates, as well as easily removes the gel that covers the seeds. Once fermented, skim the film off the top of the water and rinse out your seeds. Spread them on a parchment paper to dry for at least a week, then store for next years use. Gardeners in warm areas will find that cucamelons easily reseed themselves if you missed any dropped fruit.