Known in Mexico as Sandiitas de Raton, which literally translates to “Little Mouse Watermelons”, Cucamelons are a cute little fruit with bags of personality. Originating from Mexico, cucamelons will produce masses of fruit throughout the summer that taste like cucumber and lime. What’s more these small, grape size watermelon lookalikes are ignored by pests, are drought-tolerant and incredibly easy to grow.
Sow the seeds of cucamelons during April and May. The seeds should be sown in a propagator on a windowsill or in a greenhouse at a temperature of 22-24ºC (71-75ºF) at a depth of 1cm (½″). Sow the seed so that the blunt end faces downwards. When the seedlings are large enough to handle transfer them into 9cm (3½″).
Once the danger of frost has passed they can be planted outdoors 30-40cm (12-16″) apart providing cane support. The cucamelon plants can also be grown in a greenhouse in a grow bag, large pot or in the border. Water and feed regularly with liquid tomato fertilizer.
Once the main shoot has reached a height of 2.5m (8ft), pinch out the growing tip. Pinch out the growing tip of the side shoots when they are 40cm (16″) in length.
The plants will start to fruit in July through to late September. Cucamelons are ready to pick when they are the size of olives or small grapes and are still firm. Leaving them on the plant longer can result in a slightly bitter flavour and a soggy texture.
Cucamelons can also be treated as a perennial providing you with fruit year-after-year. In late autumn once the fruiting period is over, lift the cucamelon’s main radish-like root and store in barely moist compost in a garage or shed over winter. Plant out again in early April to achieve early fruiting.
How to Enjoy Your Cucamelons
Try in salads, pickled whole, or explore their cocktail-enhancing prowess by adding to a gin and tonic or to your Pimms.
Cucamelons can be eaten in exactly the same way as traditional cucumbers – sliced into salads, chopped into salsas or pickled whole like cornichons. Mix whole cucamelons (fresh, blanched or pickled) into a bowl of olives and serve with drinks, or why not go the whole way and spear them with toothpicks and pop them in a martini.Try in salads, pickled whole, or why not explore their cocktail-enhancing prowess by adding to a gin and tonic or to your Pimms.
Cucamelon are as sweet and adorable as they look, but there are also plenty of other unusual and new veg you can grow on the veg patch and plot this year. How about melon mangomel? it’s the size of a melon but tastes like a mango!
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