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Cucamelons have recently come in demand thanks to being featured on various TV gardening and cooking programmes. We consider that they are like Marmite - you'll either love them, or hate them! Grown as a vigorous Climbing / Trailing Plant, it produces large numbers of grape sized fruits whose taste is often descibed as like watermelon, with a hint of lime.
Cucamelon plants are pest and drought resistant and are much easier to grow that regular cucumbers.
How to Successfully Grow Cucamelons
The Cucamelon (Melothria Scabra) or ‘Mousemelon’, is an easy to grow, grape-size fruit that resembles a tiny water melon. It grows vigorously on a vine and tastes like cucumber or melon with a hint of lime. This delightful plant originates from Mexico and Central America, and is known as the Mexican sour cucumber or Mexican sour gherkin, amongst other similar names. The fruits, which you are very unlikely to see in the shops, are very nutritious and can be eaten straight off the vine, used in salads, salsas, pickled or added to cocktails. Their unusual look and taste are liable to initiate an interesting topic for conversation around the dinner table.
For best results, seeds should be sown during April and May in a greenhouse or in a propagator. They can also be sown in pots or modular trays on a warm windowsill. Use a seed compost and sow the seeds thinly then cover with 1cm of compost, firm the surface and water with a watering can and rose attachment. Cover pots and trays with clear polythene, to ensure the compost stays moist until germination. It’s important to keep the ambient temperature at around 24C (75F), which will ensure the majority of seeds will successfully germinate. When the seedlings are about 3cm high they can be transplanted into individual 9cm pots of multi-purpose compost.
Growing in containers
Cucamelon will happily grow in all types of containers, planters and even growbags. Containers should be at least 30cm and placed in a warm sunny position. Transfer to larger containers when the plants are 10cm-15cm high and after all danger of frost has passed. It’s advisable to support the plants on a trellis system, although they can be left to spread across the ground but at the risk of some fruits becoming damaged. Keep plants well-watered during dry weather.
Growing in beds
Cucamelon can also be successfully grown in open soil as you would with outdoor tomatoes or cucumbers. Prepare the planting areas in advance then transplant to their permanent positions when it’s safe to do so. Provide support and keep the plants well-watered.
Cucamelon plants grow quickly and will begin producing fruits in July. Pinch out the growing tip when the plant has reached around 150cm in height and pinch out the side shoots when they are around 45cm long. The plants should not be allowed to dry out so keep well-watered during dry spells. If growing up a trellis or similar support they may need to be tied in, although the plant’s tendrils will latch onto most things around them including other plants. Applying a potash feed or tomato feed during the growing season will keep the plants growing healthily.
Harvesting & storage
The fruits are ready for harvesting from July and right up to September. Pick regularly to encourage more flowers and fruits to form. They are ready for picking when about the size of a grape. If left too long on the vine they will become very bitter and the seeds will swell. They will keep in a fridge for a week or you can freeze them by cutting them in half and placing into an airtight plastic bag or container. Alternatively they can be pickled.
Pest & diseases
Cucamelon are not usually affected by pests and diseases, which makes them a very easy plant to grow.
Really vigorous and quite decorative -inside and outdoor .... but not a fruit in sight !
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