The cucamelon, Mexican sour gherkin looks like a mini melon and tastes like a cucumber with a hint of lime. Here’s how to grow it from seed.
It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever grown!
Cucamelons, also known as Mexican sour gherkins or mouse melons are tiny vegetables that look like mini watermelons and taste like a cucumber with a hint of lime. They have a nice crunch with a citrus tang that makes them suitable for munching straight off the vine, pickling and of course, using in cocktails.
The cucamelon is a drought tolerant annual plant which grows as a vine and therefore needs something to climb on. It spreads by having tendrils which attach themselves to a structure such as a trellis. As they start climbing, ultimately they produce tiny flowers.
I found cucamelons to be surprisingly easy to grow with very little maintenance. My first attempt was to grow them in the raised garden bed early in spring when Sydney had bipolar weather, cool mornings and evenings and warm temps during the day. The plant took its sweet time to germinate.
My second attempt was to grow them in a long container (60x25x20cm) in the middle of December. I had 100% germination rate and the vine grew quickly. Both plants are thriving well in mid-February.
The cucamelon plant produces tiny fruit with a tiny flower which then grows to about an inch long. They’re the cutest vegetables to grow and a conversation piece in the edible garden. So far, they seem to be resistant to disease. The first plant shared the raised garden bed with a black zucchini plant and Ronde de Nice zucchini – both had a bad case of powdery mildew but the cucamelon was unaffected.
How to Grow Cucamelon
Cucamelons like a sunny position with well-draining soil. Seeds can be sown directly in place or raised as a seedling in spring and summer in Sydney’s temperate climate. Sow 5mm deep and space the plants 60cm apart as they spread wide. I sowed direct on both occasions.
They can be slow to germinate and may take up to three weeks so be patient if nothing happens for a while. Make sure you have a structure in place for the plant to climb on soon after sowing the seeds so as not to disturb the roots. Train the vine to start climbing very early as it tends to have a mind of its own and can end up a tangled mess. Although cucamelons are drought tolerant, they yield more fruit if you water them well and consistently.
The fruit is ready for picking when it’s the size of an olive and has firm skin. It takes approximately 100 to 150 days from seed to harvest. It’s best not to leave the fruit on the vine for too long as it can turn bitter.
The cucamelon’s ability to withstand a little drought is due to having tubers which store water. When the cool weather arrives, the plant starts to shed its leaves. The tubers can then be dug out, lifted and stored over winter before replanting in spring. Check out this article on how to overwinter cucamelon tubers.
In the meantime, I plan to enjoy cucamelons in cocktails and I’ll publish the recipes on our website Cocktails & Bars.
CUCAMELON GROWING GUIDE AT A GLANCE
For temperate climate (Sydney, Australia)
- Sowing Season: spring, summer
- Sowing Method: sow direct or raise seedlings
- Position: full sun
- Seed Preparation: nil
- Soil: moist well drained soil
- Sowing Depth: 5mm
- Plant Spacing: 60cm
- Row Spacing: 70cm
- Plant Height: climbing vine
- Germination: 10-14 days @ 22-28°C but can take around 3 weeks
- Time to Maturity/Harvest: 100 to 150 days
- Water Requirements: drought tolerant but watering consistently produces more fruit
- Fertiliser Requirements: liquid tomato fertiliser, some potash
- Companion Planting: cucumber, melon
- Ones to Avoid: potato, sage
- Succession Planting: n/a
Want to Know More?
You’ll find more information on how to grow cucamelon, which varieties to try, how to pair it with food and spirits, and how to use cucamelon in cocktails including a full recipe in my 260+ page digital book GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN available now.