Never heard of cucamelons? The tiny fruits look like a mini watermelon and tastes like…. Well, find out what cucamelon tastes like, where you can buy it, what they go great with and how to grow it.
Imagine a love affair between a cucumber and a watermelon. The offspring between the two would be a cucamelon, a curiously-cute fruit the size of a grape tomato. And the great news is that each has zero carbs so it’s a low carb fruit too!
But this whimsical fruit is not the result of 21st century mad-science genetic modification. In fact, cucamelons are not a hybrid. This tiny, crunchy crop is all natural and not a GMO crop.
Curious about giving cucamelons a try?
For starters, you may not see them sold as cucamelons. They have several other names, including:
- Mexican sour gherkin
- Mexican miniature watermelon
- Sandiitas (“Sandia” is Spanish for watermelon; the name implies mini watermelons.)
- Mexican sour cucumber
- Mouse melon
However, the only place you’re likely to see them sold is at a farmer’s market. Most supermarkets do not carry them. Not even the Trader Joe’s chain sells them.
(If any supermarket sold cucamelons, you’d figure it would be TJ’s. Considering their tendency to carry trendy cute fruits like baby avocados.)
Got a green thumb? Some people highly recommend growing this drought resistant, health-benefiting fruit at home. It may even work in an indoor vegetable garden.
But let’s find out what taking a bite of this fruit is like….
What does cucamelon taste like?
These mini cucumbers taste nothing like a watermelon. They taste like cucumbers, albeit with a limey-citrusy aftertaste. And like regular cucumbers, they’re ideal for pickling.
Pickled foods are a great source of probiotics.
However, unlike cukes, cucamelons don’t need to be peeled, AND you can eat them whole, making them the perfect little treat picked fresh off the vine.
But not everybody likes them. One person posted the following comment on a food blog:
“These are foul. They taste neither like a watermelon nor a ‘lime-soaked cucumber’. Learn from my mistake, pass them by. My dog, who enthusiastically eats everything, spit them out.”
OK, then. Clearly, cucamelons aren’t for everybody. However, like avocados, they are one of the trendiest fruits. If supermarkets carried them, they’d be a staple in every coffee shop that sells avocado toast.
Of course, the avocado toast would be topped with cucamelons.
Cucamelons can be very expensive if you buy them at a farmer’s market. That’s why supermarkets probably don’t carry them. And that’s why more people are growing these mini cukes at home (stay tuned for growing instructions).
How do you eat cucamelons?
The simplest way is to pick it off the vine and pop them straight into your mouth. And if you want to add some nutritious crunch to your salad, these little fruits can’t be beat. You can also use them to make a cucumber mint infused water without using cucumbers.
As mentioned, they are ideal for turning into pickles. And no martini is complete without adding a gherkin pickle. Come to think of it, cucamelons go great with several other cocktails.
There’s not nearly as many recipes with cucamelon as there are for avocado toast, but some recipes feature them in stir fries. Some people claim they’re great with ceviche.
Getting hungry? Before exploring some more recipes, let’s learn more about sandiitas….
Cucamelon Melothria Scabra
Cucamelons are native to Mexico and Central America. You can think of them as a cousin to regular cucumbers. They come from the same botanic family (Cucurbitaceae). But cucamelons are from a different genus—Melothria Scabra—than regular cucumbers.
The fruit grows on a vine. The drought-tolerant plant easily takes root and produces a high yield of fruit.
Julia Dimakos, a gardening expert, says that Melothria Scabra has a maturity of 80 days. If you live in, say, Minnesota, you want to plan ahead and have the plant fruit well before the frigid winter. However, you can grow it in the beginning of the cold season (early fall).
According to Dimakos, the fruit can be grown in a pot, barrel or plastic bag. Just don’t forget to transfer the root after a few days to allow the plant to fully grow, she says.
Or, of course, you can grow cucamelon in your outdoor garden. And if you add humic acid to the soil, you’ll likely getting a better yield.
Not only is this self-pollinating plant drought-tolerant. It’s also hardy and won’t easily succumb to pests, rodents or diseases.
How to grow cucamelon
The name of the game with Melothria Scabra is developing a strong root system. To do this, sow the seeds in 4-inch pots. Remember, you’re starting the process indoors.
After frost season passes, it’s time to transfer the young cucamelon plant to your outdoor garden.
If you do live in a cold climate, better to be safe than sorry with your young, fragile plant. Protect them with a cloche until the frost has passed.
But once you’re sure that the weather will be nice, break out the trellises. Like a hearty heirloom tomato, Melothria Scabra thrives when grown on a trellis.
The plant also thrives with plenty of sun and rich soil. Make sure the trellis is exposed to full sun. Add aged manure or compost to the soil.
But let’s go back to when you first sow the seeds indoors. Dimakos suggests sowing them 1/2 an inch deep or at the depth of double the seed size.
It’s super important not to use high-quality draining soil and not let the soil dry out in between waterings. Remember, these mini cukes require up to 80 days of frost-free weather before fruiting. The soil temperature should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reusing Cucamelon Root
Here’s the great thing about growing the fruit yourself. After the growing season, you can reuse the root. Simply remove it from the ground (but don’t yank it too hard). In between seasons, you’ll want to store the root in a cool, dry place.
Then, once the next frost season is over, you can replant the root. You’ll get an even higher yield the next time around.
Buying Cucamelon Seeds
Unfortunately, you can’t buy them at just any local hardware store. However, buying them is as simple as anything else these days—just do it online. One packet provides about 25-30 seeds.
Tomatoes are abundant in lycopene. So, too, are these green grape-tomato look-alikes. Lycopene can help protect against UV damage from the sun. In addition, cucamelons contain beta carotene, as well as vitamins E & K.
Recipes with Cucamelon
Courtesy of Dine & Dash here’s a recipe for salsa with these mini cucumber cousins….
- 300 g of cucamelons, cut in halves
- 50 g of feta, crumbled
- 2 tbsp. of chopped Thai basil
- 1/2 tsp. of chili flakes
- juice of 1/2 lime
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.
- Set aside for at least half an hour.
- Serve with toasted bread.
Have you tried cucamelon? What do you think of the taste? Have you tried growing them yourself? Leave a comment….