Saturday, May 14, 2016

Cucamelon

Introducing Cucamelon??? 




Yes...you read it right...Cucamelon!
  
      I think this is one of the neatest things I've ever seen grow, anywhere!  Cucamelon, also referred to as "Mouse Melon" or "Mexican Sour Gherkin", which is where it originated from.  Although it has a few other names, I prefer to use the term Cucamelon as this best describes it. Referring to it as a "mouse melon", I feel that I might get a little 'creeped' out thinking that something may dash out in front of me like all those little rodents are notorious for doing!  I can understand however, why it may have been Nick-named as "mouse melon", because it is small and the vine kind of resembles a long tail. The name Cucamelon also may best describe this tiny little fruit as it has a cucumber flavour complimented with a delicious and unique hint of lime.  The skin colour and texture is the same as regular cucumbers and if cut open the flesh and seeds would remind you of cutting into a mini or dill cucumberWhat also makes these "little guys" like a cucumber is how they are grown. Growing requirements are similar to that of cucumbers and melons only a bit easier. You will find detailed growing instructions followed below. I say "little guys" because the size of this fruit would be comparable to a small/grape tomato.

   
      If you own a market stand, you sure would be glad you added this new and ever popular heavy yield-er! These Cucamelons are so productive and have great pest and disease resistance and of course, not forgetting to mention the delicious flavour. Cucamelons are ideal for home gardeners as well. They are an ideal alternative if your space is limited. You can even grow them from a small apartment balcony by planting them in a container or grow bag Just think, all you have to do is reach out your door and you will instantly have a handful of fresh fruit ready to eat right off the plant!
     Creativity with this veggie is endless. There are many choices on how you can serve them or grow them. Cucamelons are perfect for snacking by themselves, pickling (especially with mint and dill), they compliment any tossed salad with veggies or fruit (namely olives drizzled with olive oil based dressings). You can chop them up in small pieces or cubes to add to a delicious, fancy ham sandwich or served as an easy appetizer with different kinds of cheeses and drinks,so refreshing in the summer time. You may have even seen or heard that TV chefs are using them! Has this made you feel hungry yet?
     Now that you are hungry and hopefully intrigued  to grow these "little cuties", you may wonder,"How do I get them to grow?" Some may think that any veggies that grow from a vine would take up a lot of room and be a bit challenging, but as I said earlier, they are very easily grown. The foliage of this plant is much smaller then regular cucumbers or melons and grows great on a trellis horizontally or vertically because the fruit isn't as heavy.  You can try growing them in our  tomato planter as well.


    Complete growing instructions for Cucamelons are below and you will also find this information on our Vesey's website under the learn tab. Under this learn tab you will find all other growing instructions for flowers and vegetables at any time.
    Cucamelons grow best if started indoors similar to a melon and transplanted outdoors after last frost. Start Cucamelons in fibre pots as they prefer not to have their roots disturbed.


Melothria scabra (Cucamelon) Growing instructions:

      When setting out to plant, sow indoors 4 weeks prior to the last frost in your region. Use 2 1/4" jiffy pots, sowing 2-3 seeds per pot at 1/2" deep. Provide with warm soil temperature of 20-24°C. Heat will encourage a faster germination time as they can be a bit slower to start then regular cucumbers or melons. Moisten soil before planting and after seeds have been planted at a proper depth, water in lightly with a fine mist for best germination results. You can thin by leaving the best 2 seedlings in each pot. Keep soil moist but not too wet and you can start fertilizing them with a balanced fertilizer once a week to every ten days after they have reached a one to two true leaf stage.
      Transplant outdoors after all risk of frost in rows 2-4' apart or can be grown in  Raised Beds 
or plant 1 transplant per a minimum 24" container or grow bag. These seeds can be directly seeded similar to cucumbers, but waiting until risk of frost has passed and soil has warmed is best. Prepare soil with compost and once planted they can be fed regularly during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer. Sow seed in rows and space evenly. You can choose to sow into mounded 1'x 2' hills, leaving 2 plants per hill, with hills spaced at 2-4'. Plant in full sun with a soil pH of 6.0-7.0 for best results.  Once plant has become established, you can surround with mulch to help eliminate weed competition. 
     Cucamelons are monoecious plants. What this means is that they produce both male and female blossoms enabling them to pollinate themselves. No worries if you have limited space and can only grow one plant, but the more you grow, the better the pollination will be resulting in healthy and more productive fruit set. 
     To extend the growing season, either early or late, you can protect with row covers or low tunnels. This will help plants mature quickly by providing an increase in heat that these plants enjoy. Please note that row covers will need to be removed once blossoms are set to enable ideal pollinating conditions. 

     Some gardeners may find it a bit of a challenge to know if their cucumbers,melons and now cucamelons are ready for harvest . With Cucamelons, it is a little easier to tell when they are mature by seeing that they reach grape size, still firm to touch as well as slip easily off the stem.

      Each gardening season is exciting as there is always something new to try.  I assure you that growing Cucamelons will become one of your new favourites to grow whether its just 1 plant this year or 100 next year. With any type of flower or plant there always comes the question...What would I ever use that for? Once you have an idea on how to cook or serve it with as well as how it is best grown, it will enable you to consider trying something new or new ways of using plants that you have been growing for years. There will always be new varieties to keep you guessing and enjoy the challenges gardening can sometimes test you with. Check out our website , facebook page or other garden blogs for many more new and exciting flowers or veggies to become your own expert at growing.

      Always remember to take your coffee breaks even if you don't drink coffee. :)





2 comments:

  1. Why do they turn dark (almost black) on the vine?

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  2. A fellow gardener had just asked why do cucumelons turn black on the vine?
    The answer is these melons turn black as they become over ripe and are now considered un-edible. Pick these cucumelons as they turn green as well as have a swollen appearance.

    ReplyDelete