Melothria scabra (65 days) Open-pollinated. Also known as Cucamelon or Sandía de ratón (‘Mouse Watermelon’ in Spanish), and Preserving Cucumber in France. Native to Mexico and Central America and a staple in diets there since pre-Columbian times. We love the unusual, so when we saw these darlings on exhibit at Common Ground Fair in 2004, we found them irresistible. So did the judges who gave them a coveted Judges’ Award.
The great late Janet Winslow calls them a “gateway” crop, meaning they inspire fairgoers to explore the diversity of available food crops. Wimpy seedlings grow into rampant yet delicate scrambling vines covered with dozens of 1" green and white fruit that look like miniature watermelons but taste more like cucumbers, with a crunchy texture and a slight sour zing as if they already had been pickled. Botanically, they are neither cucumber nor watermelon and won’t cross with either. They don’t bruise and they keep for a long time.
Try them in stir fries, pickle them as gherkins, or add to salsas. Also popular among trendy bartenders. Easy to grow, and fun! Slightly more cold-tolerant than cukes, and more drought-resistant. 10' vines benefit from a fence or trellis. About 350 seeds/g.
1243 Mexican Sour Gherkin
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About 30 seeds/g; about 900 seeds/oz; variations noted.
Days to maturity are from emergence after direct seeding. From transplant, subtract 20 days.
Culture: May be started indoors for early production, or direct-seeded when soil has warmed. Minimum germination soil temperature 65°, optimal range 65–95°. Very tender, will not survive frost. Direct seed 3" apart thinning to 1' apart in rows 4–6' apart or 6 per mound in hills 4' apart thinning to 3 best plants. For transplants: once seedlings have 1–2 true leaves, about 3 weeks old, plant 1' apart in rows 4–6' apart. Cucumbers require good fertility and regular rain or irrigation for abundant yields. Without adequate water, fruits will be misshapen and bitter. Pick cukes frequently for best production, or else the plants shut down. Make sure to remove blimps to the compost pile.
Combat striped cucumber beetles by handpicking early AM when the dew makes them sluggish, or use floating row covers, removing when cukes flower. Cucumber beetles are the vector for BW.
Using compost in conjunction with row covers (rather than either alone) increased cucumber yields at the University of Michigan.
Saving Seed: Saving cucumber seed is easy! Take that big yellow cuke that got away and save it for seed. Scoop out the guts of overripe fruit and ferment it in an uncovered container for a few days. A moldy gross cap to the slurry means the seeds are ready to rinse and dry. To ensure true-to-type seed, grow only one open-pollinated variety per season.