Cucamelons Are the Cutest Superfood You Can Grow Yourself
Not only do cucumelons look like adorable tiny watermelons, they also are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. Check out how you can grow your own cucamelons.
While you may not have heard of the cucamelon, they're rapidly becoming one of the most popular fruits on Instagram simply because they look like a watermelon that's been zapped by a shrink ray Honey, I Shrunk the Kids style. But these little fruits are so much more than cute.
Also known as a mouse melon, the Mexican sour gherkin, or by its Spanish name, sandiita (little watermelon), a cucamelon is the fruit of the Melothria scabra vine and is about the size of a grape. But despite the name, they're not actually a hybrid of watermelons and cucumbers. They do have a semi-hard rind with markings like a watermelon, but the entire thing is totally edible so you can pop them in your mouth for a burst of cucumber flavor with a sour twist. Think a cucumber and lime mashup. They're packed with nutrients making them both fun to look at and functional, and while they're native to Central America, they can easily be grown in most parts of the U.S.
What Makes Cucamelons a Superfood?
Cucamelons are small but pack a healthful punch. They are full of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and fiber, and are also low in calories. The nutrients they provide can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
How Can I Eat Them?
Cucamelons can be eaten raw right off the vine or used in more creative ways. With their sour flavor, cucamelons can be great additions to salsas, salads and cocktails. To use in salsas, we recommend adding them to our Chunky Tomato Salsa, swapping out standard cucumbers for cucamelons in our Savory Strawberry Salsa, or using them in the delicious fruity-meets-spicy Sonoma Harvest Salsa.
They can be pickled (they're technically a part of the gherkin family), and will be even crisper after pickling. Try them in our Overnight Cucumber Pickles recipe or modify our Best Ever Dill Pickles recipe by using cucamelons instead of regular cucumbers.
So How Do I Grow Cucamelons?
Since cucamelons hail from Central America, they prefer climates with similar conditions. They require full sun and hot weather and don't do well at temperatures under 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But you can still grow them yourself even if your conditions aren't ideal. If you live in an area with hot days and cool nights, plant your cucamelons in containers rather than a garden bed. You can pull the container inside at night, then bring them out into natural sun during the day. The vines also thrive in greenhouse conditions.
But despite their need for warmer temps, cucamelons aren't high maintenance plants to grow. They are relatively drought- and pest-resistant and are hardier than most varieties of cucumbers, making this a truly any-on-can-grow-it type of fruit.
If you're growing outdoors, start the seeds around the same time you would start cucumbers (April or May). Like many fruits and veggies, they like rich, well-drained soil. If you do start them in a container, you can transplant into the ground after the danger of overnight frost has passed. Water the plant well once a week, and increase to twice a week in extremely hot weather. Wherever they are planted, give this vining plant a trellis or stake to climb.
Cucamelon seeds can be hard to come by, but you can easily find them online through retailers like Amazon and Park Seed. Once you have a fruit-bearing plant of your own, save some seeds for planting later by picking one of the ripe fruits, allowing it to sit for a week or two, then cutting it open and plucking out the tiny seeds. Lay them out to dry and then keep in an envelope or plastic container for future planting.
These adorable little fruits are slow growers so be patient; it will typically take three to four weeks for a plan to appear when starting from seeds. Once your vine beings to flower, the fruit will appear shortly thereafter. Wait to pick them until the fruits are about the size of your grape and firm to the touch. To avoid damaging the vine and keep it producing fruits for months to come, try snipping off the petite fruits with a pair of scissors. With care, you should have a decent harvest of fruits off a single plant by the time the vine goes dormant in October or November. Give them a try today!