Why Southerners Should Grow Cucamelons This Year
No, the cucamelon isn't a figment of your imagination, it's the fruit-filled vine your garden needs this year.
What is it?
Cucamelons are tiny, grape-sized fruits that taste like cucumbers, but with a touch of tart sourness. They look like miniature watermelons and are also known as Mexican sour gherkins, or Melothria scabra. You may also know them by their other nicknames: mouse melons, Mexican miniature watermelons, Mexican sour cucumbers, or pepquinos. Cucamelons are native to Mexico and Central America.
Can I eat it?
Oh, yes. The cucamelon is tiny, juicy, and entirely edible—skin and all. In fact, they're packed with vitamins and antioxidants and carry with them many of the same health benefits associated with cucumbers and melons.
In the kitchen, cucamelons are an unexpected addition to entrée salads or fruit salads, and they are a quirky (and delicious) garnish for main dishes, sides, and cocktails. (Cucamelon relish, anyone?) You can use the cucamelon whole or blend it into other dishes. You can also pickle it, which will be a preparation near and dear to Southerners' hearts. Use it as you would a cucumber, and you'll spice up your cuisine with its fresh, tart, and utterly unexpected flavor.
How do I grow it?
We're glad you asked. Cucamelon plants love warm weather, so summer in the South is an ideal environment for them. It's best to plant them in the spring so they can germinate in plenty of time to enjoy the hot summer sun. You may want to grow them in pots so you can bring them indoors to keep warm when nighttime temperatures begin to drop. In terms of daily care, cucamelon plants need full sun, regular watering, and well-drained soil to ensure they bear fruit. The cucamelon plant is a vine and will also need a trellis structure upon which to climb as it grows.
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When spring arrives, start growing your own, and let us know how you are enjoying your cucamelon plants in the garden and in the kitchen this year.