Cucamelons – Growing This Strange and Wonderful Fruit
Have you started planting or thinking about what you will plant in your garden this year? Are you willing to try something new? Yes, there is actually a different kind of plant you can grow in your garden that produces delicious fruit. Have you heard of the cucamelon? If you haven’t, you are in for a real treat!
For those who have the space and are willing to give something new a try, this plant is perfect for you. It is unique and actually produces edible fruit that is quite tasty. Visitors to your garden will be thrilled to see such a cool plant growing and will have a hundred questions to ask you. Let’s address those questions for you and anybody else who may see your cucamelon plant.
What is It?
The fruit is a cucumber that looks like a miniature watermelon. You are probably familiar with a watermelon plant. In the earliest stages of the melon development, the fruit resembles tiny little watermelons. The cucamelon plant produces similar fruit, but the only difference is the fact that it is ripe and ready to eat at this stage. The fruit is about the size of a grape when it is ready to be plucked from the vine. The cucamelon is also called the Mexican Sour Gherkin or Sandiita, which means little watermelon in Spanish.
What Does it Taste Like?
Surprisingly, it tastes nothing like a watermelon. It tastes like a cucumber soaked in lime juice. It has a tangy flavor that is refreshing. The cucamelons can be pickled, similar to a cucumber. When flavored with dill and mint in the pickling process it is really good. The fruit can be eaten right off the vine as well. You don’t have to peel the cucamelon like you would a cucumber. You can toss the cucamelons in a salad whole or sliced, similar to what you would do with a grape tomato. Tossing the cucamelons in a little olive oil and serving with sliced peppers is also a tasty treat. If you like a martini at night, use a cucamelon instead of an olive for your drink. You are sure to find more ways to use the cucamelons once you get that first taste.Is it GMO?
That is a difficult one to say for sure, but according to several articles on the web, the plants are not GMO. They are actually native to Central America where they are quite common. They are served as a delicacy in the region. The fruits were part of the Aztec community’s diet, but have remained fairly secret until recently. They are not a hybrid.
How to Grow the Cucamelons
You will first need to find seeds. These are not seeds you will find at The Home Depot or your local co-op. You will need to look online. They are about the same price as other seeds you would buy from online retailers. Expect to get about 30 seeds in a packet, which is more than enough.
Cucamelons have a seed to maturity time of about 80 days, which makes them an ideal crop even for those in cool climates. They are fast growers and you will see full plants in as little as two months. The cucamelons can be grown in a variety of ways. They are not invasive and will not take over your garden if you decide to go that way.
- Direct seed in the garden
The cucamelon plant is a vining plant and will need a trellis. However, the plants do not require a lot of room to grow, which makes them ideal in a container. You could plant several plants fairly close together to share a trellis. Plant seedlings or seeds about 6 inches apart. The plants will grow anywhere from 3 to 5 feet high so make sure you trellis is tall enough to support the plants. You could use a few bamboo poles similar to what you would use with pea plants. The plants send out little shoots to wrap around the bamboo for support.
The plants are not quite as sensitive as a cucumber and can be started directly outdoors once the chance of frost is gone. They do need plenty of water. There are no special pruning techniques involved. They are super easy to plant and basically ignore until you are ready to pick the fruit.
It is time to harvest when the cucamelons are still firm and the size of a grape. The plants can be quite prolific. If you are not planning on preserving them by pickling, be cautious with how many seeds you put in the ground. Of course, you will probably not have a problem giving the unique fruits away to your friends and neighbors.
After the first season, you will discover your cucamelon plants produce very long, tuberous roots similar to that of a dahlia or iris. You can dig up these roots and store them in a cool, dry place over the winter. Next planting season, put the tubers in the ground. Your will get an earlier crop with twice as much fruit.
If you have been looking for something new to plant in your garden, the cucamelon is an excellent choice. Saving the tubers your plants grow can actually help you add a little cash to your wallet. Because the seeds are not widely available, you could sell the tubers in your local area to interested buyers. You will still have enough to plant a new crop and produce even more tubers for the following year.
Where To Get Them
Want to grow these little curiosities? You can get seeds here for pretty cheap.