Cucamelons: Discovering the World's Cutest Veggie
When we're upstate, we can't get enough of the local fresh-picked shell peas and giant heirloom tomatoes, but in our Brooklyn container garden, we have the best luck with tiny fruits and vegetables that grow on high-yield vines. We love our teeny, tiny tomatoes, and this year, we decided to try cucamelons -- mini-cucumbers that look like grape-sized watermelons. I don't have space to start seeds indoors, so we got our hardy little vines from White Flower Farm and they just grew and grew. I let them climb up these awesome stacking tomato ladders, which are sturdy and ideal for small gardens.
Here's one potted vine getting a visit from a red admiral butterfly:
When you start to see these adorable yellow flowers, the cucamelons are on the way:
The cucamelon is also known as the Mexican sour gherkin or sandiita, which is Spanish for "little watermelon."
Cucamelons are ready to pick when they are about the size of a grape. A ripe cucamelon should feel firm like a cucumber.
They taste like home-grown cucumbers that have been squirted with lime juice, assertively fresh and grassy with a citrusy tang. My kids both spit them out in my hand, but I think they're delicious. (To be fair, the kids did the same thing with our sweet 100 tomatoes, which are basically tomato-flavored candy-berries.) I think it's amazing that something so exotic-tasting and brightly flavorful could grow from a little pot of dirt on my patio.
Though cucamelons look like miniature watermelons from the outside, they look more like cucumbers when you slice them in half:
According to Homestead and Prepper, which offers some great tips on growing cucamelons, they are not a new hybrid plant -- they are native to Central America, where they were part of the Aztec diet. We've been eating ours right off the vine, but Homegrown Revolution recommends serving them with olives, pickling them or using them to garnish summery martinis.
I only wish we had room to grow more! If I ever see them at the farm stand, I'll be taking home as many as I can carry.