Grow Your Own Cucamelons

by / 18 Comments / 3629 View / August 12, 2015

How to Grow Cucamelons

 

Adorable. It’s the first word that comes to mind when discovering Cucamelons. Adorable with a capital “A.” No wonder it’s also known as Mouse Melon. Yet another more common name, Mexican Sour Gherkin, adds a tinge of mystery to the mix. Adorable, sweet, sour and it’s a cucumber that looks like a miniature watermelon?

I know what you’re thinking. You have to grow this plant.

So what are you waiting for? What makes it even more fascinating is that it’s an open pollenated heirloom from Central America and not a true cucumber. Cucamelon, Melothria scabra, is in the same family as a cucumber and has a similar habit but you’ll quickly discover that it’s unique, less particular and easier to grow.

How to Grow Cucamelons

 

Growing Cucamelons

In warmer climates (USDA hardiness zones 9 or warmer), direct sow Cucamelon seeds in your garden once soil temperatures rise in April to May. Treat them as you would cucumber seeds, planting them in groups or circles of 4 to 6 about 1 inch apart with groups about 12 to 15 inches apart. Thin them once established using scissors, selecting the healthiest of the bunch.

In cooler climates or to simply play it safe sow seeds indoors with other summer crops in late February to April. Start them individually in paper pots and manage soil temperatures, keeping them warm to optimize germination. Plant out after the last frost. *Note: using paper pots allows you to plant them directly into the garden, paper pot and all, so the roots are intact and undisturbed.

Cucamelons are tender perennials which means, if you live in a warm climate they may continue to grow year after year from the same root stock. You can test this by insulating the area with mulch after the growing season. I’ve even heard that some gardeners remove the roots stock, placing it in a controlled environment and planting it back out in spring.

The Basics

  • Prepare soil with compost and organic, aged manure or a balanced fertilizer before planting.
  • Apply mulch to soil surface to suppress weeds and maintain soil moisture.
  • Cucamelons are vigorous climbers. Give them a strong, tall trellis or A-frame to scramble over. They like to reach in all directions and can extend to great lengths so start out with something that is bigger than you think you’ll need. Consider one like this Deluxe Cucumber Trellis or this Twine Vegetable Trellis.
  • Great for containers and small spaces, where there’s room for plants to grow up.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Can take up to 4 weeks to germinate. I’ve also found the vine is initially slow growing but vigorous once established.
  • Plant in full sun, provide protection from wind and water well until established.
  • Prolific producer. Look for fruit on a regular basis under and between leaves.
  • Harvest and eat at almost any size but they become seedy and firm with age, when they’re over an inch long or more. You can tell if they’re tender by squeezing them.
  • Great in salads when tender and fabulous pickled. Save the firmer ones for pickling.
  • Collect seed from fruit that have matured on the vine and fallen to the ground.
  • A tender perennial.

 

How to Grow Cucamelons

18 Comment

  1. I planted some back in probably June. They have grown profusely and there are tiny melons with little yellow flowers all over the place, but they don’t seem to be getting any bigger. Is that normal???

    • Hi Jessica, yes — this is normal. It can take a little while for cucamelons to begin to fruit and once they do, they’re generally prolific until your first frost. Fruits are best picked when they’re the size of a dime or nickel. I find when they’re nearly an inch long or so they become quite tough and are best made into pickles, but when they’re small they’re wonderful to eat raw, in salads, or cocktails. Enjoy – it’s a wonderful plant! 😉

  2. Sow Cucamelon seeds in your garden once soil temperatures rise in April to May.
    The summer season has passed, otherwise, it will definitely try. Wonderful information about Cucamelon.
    http://naturebring.com

  3. I planted mouse melons for the first time this year. So far they have produced about two dozen melons. They look like small watermelons and taste great in salads. I got my seeds from Burpee.

    • Wow, Peggy! Already 2 dozen! That’s amazing. The first year I grew them I didn’t harvest many until August, but once I began harvesting they didn’t stop coming until the first freeze. Prepare to pickle and eat your way through them. 🙂

  4. http://thegreedyvegan.com/how-to-grow-cucamelon/

    Here is one of them. A tuber, not a rhizome.

    • Hi Jenn, thanks for writing! I’ve heard this too and have a tuber from last season I’ve just planted. Still waiting to see if it’s successful. My guess is it operates much like a sunchoke, dahlia, etc. I’m hoping the one I have takes off, it will make replanting a breeze.
      Let me know how it works for you and Happy Summer! Emily

  5. I believe I’ve seen info about the cucamelon forming a rhizome which can be dug up and saved for the following year? Supposedly expedites the growth and increases production. I have NOT tried this myself but I’ve seen several articles on the topic.

  6. Went to a restaurant in Hot Springs, VA and had a martini with Hendricks Gin, St. Germaine liquor and garnished with a couple of cucamelons on a toothpick. It was a great cocktail.

    • That sounds fabulous! Will have to try it. 🙂

  7. How do I over winter 6 nice cucamelon plants in zone 6A 6B?

    • Hi Fred, thanks for writing! Overwintering cucamelons is possible but tricky in colder climates. Your best bet, if growing in a container, is to move the container indoors where the temperatures are mild. Like in a garage or basement. Mulch the top soil with straw or a thick compost and as soon as temperatures begin to rise well above freezing, move your plants back outside. Another option, which worked well for me this past season, is to save cucamelon seeds to be planted next spring and to also encourage volunteers. I like to leave a few fallen cucamelons in the garden. Hide them from critters if you need to by burying them under a layer of soil or mulch and, if conditions are right, you’ll have volunteers in the spring. Volunteers come up at just the right time and tend to be hardy and grow vigorously. Best of luck and please write again with further questions. Thanks! Emily

  8. First year growing. Took entire seed pack to end up with two plants. Planted in pot near raspberry and other garden veggies that attracted bees, and never had any issue with pollination that way. I purchased mine online by Google searching this plant.

  9. They are so cute, I want to garnish drinks with them!
    For the past two seasons I’ve grown large plants with lots of flowers but haven’t had any fruit set, any suggestions?

  10. These sound awesome ..where can i get seeds

    • You’ve got that right, they’re easy to grow, cute and tasty! Find seeds at Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers or Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have. 😀

Your Commment

Email (will not be published)