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growing cucamelon

Growing Cucamelon in Your Garden (Melothria scobra)

Growing Cucamelon

The cucamelon is one of the most unique fruits that are available on the seed market today. If you are someone who is willing to give something new a try or is looking for a conversation starter with your neighbors or visitors who see your family garden, you are in for a real treat with the cucamelon. This new fruit is not only interesting to look at and talk about but it’s actually completely edible and safe to enjoy once it finishes growing. That’s another great bonus to growing this fruit in your garden.

The cucamelon is a fruit that looks like a miniature watermelon and it grows like a watermelon, too. In the early stages of growth, the cucamelon will virtually look like a mini-watermelon. The only difference between this and watermelon is that when they are at that stage the fruit is actually already ripened and ready to eat. The fruit is about the size of a grape when it’s ready to be eaten. The cucamelon is also known as the Mexican Sour Gherkin or the Sandiita.

Part of the appeal of the cucamelon today is that much of its history is quite elusive. While we know that it came from and originated from Mexico and South America during the ancient times, well before Western civilization existed on the Americas as we know it, there is not much else we can definitively say about the fruit. The mystery behind it is interesting but the fruit is here today and we may as well enjoy much of it as we can!  

Sowing Depth of Seeds:

Seeds should be planted at the depth of about ½ to ¾ inches deep in the soil. Seeds should be planted about 2 feet apart and each row should be spaced at about 4 – 6 feet apart.

Water/Soil/Sunlight Preferences:

The cucamelon should be planted in full sunlight in soil that has a pH of about a 6.0 – 6.5 which means that the soil is mildly acidic. The ideal temperature for soil would be about 65 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant will need a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight a day to thrive but more is always recommended.

Cucamelons should receive about 1” of water per plant every 5-7 days throughout the growing season. Water is vital to their stream of nutrients to keep them growing healthfully. Wetting the top 6 – 15” of soil is recommended. It’s important to weed regularly to keep the weeds from invading the plant’s space or from taking up the water supplied to the plant.

Plant Height & Width:

The cucamelon grows in the pattern of a climbing vine and will take up a minimum of 12 square inches for every plant that is planted. Installing trellises or wiring to allow the cucamelon to climb up in a structured environment is recommended for best-growing practices.

Typical Fruit Sizes:

The cucamelon is a very small fruit that is usually only about the size of a grape when it’s harvested. The fruits should be picked when they are still firm.

Known Pests & Diseases:

Surprisingly, cucamelons, despite their small size are very tough to infect with any sort of pest or disease. Pest control is not really an issue as insects and birds prefer not to mess with cucamelon plants in most cases. The fruit also reseeds itself every year making this a great addition to any sort of permaculture garden or reforestation effort you may wish to start in your backyard.

Harvesting Information:

Cucamelons should be harvested soon after the plants begin to flower. The fruits will be ready shortly following this time. Fruits should be a nice, plump size around the size of a grape and should be firm in texture. The average cucamelon fruit will be about 1 – 1 ½ inches in length when fully grown. Picking the first few a little bit early before they are even ready will help induce more fruit to grow on later when the plant continues to mature. About 2-3 weeks should be allowed after pollination for the plant to begin to produce fruit.

Strive to harvest the fruit by picking them off without tearing at the vines, which can damage the plant. If you don’t feel comfortable just plucking the fruit, a small pair of harvesting scissors can be used to help ensure the fruit is coming off cleanly without damaging the core of the plant itself, which can stop the fruit from growing in the future.

The first couple of years the fruits will not be as large or the amounts as voluminous as the plant is new and just getting started in its fruit-production cycle. As a few years go on and the plant begins to get more mature bigger fruits in larger quantities will be yielded. Also be sure that you are not cutting the tubular part of the plant when trimming the foliage to ensure that the plant is unharmed.

General History/Info on Cucamelons:

Also known as the Sour Mexican Gherkin or Mexican Miniature Watermelon to name a few of the alternative names, the cucamelon tastes like a cucumber with a tinge of sourness. These slow-growing fruits take about 80 – 90 days from the seeds being planted to the fruit being yielded. The cucamelon originated in Mexico (as some of the alternative names suggest) and Central America where they were believed to have been domesticated long before Western civilization as we know it today settled on the American continents.

Nutritional Information:

A single raw cucamelon fruit contains 2 calories and an individual fruit does not contain a measurable amount nutrient.

When eaten in a decent quantity, however, they are a great source of several different vitamins and also are a great source of fiber. They are also low in calories yet are a great source of simple sugars.

Some individuals tout the cucamelon with the ability to help provide anti-aging benefits and others claim it is a “super fruit” or “superfood” that provides many nutritional benefits to the body. Moreover, like many other fruits, the cucamelon is a great source of antioxidants to the body.

Other Uses for Cucamelons:

Cucamelons can be eaten raw or made part of a variety of other dishes. Some of the most popular dishes that cucamelons are part of including pickled dishes or even slicing them up and tossing them with olives and slivers of pepper while cooking them in olive oil for a tasty side dish to a meal.

These fruits are also a great way to garnish a variety of fancy drinks and beverages at a party if you are looking for a little extra “pizzazz” to be added to your cups. Other people say adding several cucamelons to a glass of water can offer a flavored water like one with added cucumber and/or lime juice. It’s a great, healthy alternative to sugary teas, juices, or sodas to add to water and enjoy sipping a refreshing drink any time of the year.

They can also be eaten just like grapes right out of the bag or out of a bowl. They will taste a little bitter but it is best described by someone who tested it as a “cucumber sprayed with lime juice”. It’s a unique flavor that no other fruits out there will provide.

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