COLUMBIA, S.C. — Part of the fun of growing your own food is tasting something you’d never see in stores. Cucamelon is a very trendy plant right now for home gardeners, and it probably deserves a spot in your Southern garden too.
The vine is praised for it’s hardiness, heat tolerance, beauty, and fruit (which tastes great!). I make an effort to experiment with new plants in Gandy’s Garden so you have an idea of what you’re getting into before you buy a new plant. Let’s dive into all the tasty details!
What is a Cucamelon?
Cucamelon get its name because the fruit tastes like a cucumber but looks like a watermelon. These fruit are actually very tiny (about the size of a grape, or smaller), so you can imagine snacking on a handful of these at a time.
I find the name “cucamelon” to be very misleading because it sounds like the plant is a weird freak of nature cross between cucumbers and watermelon – but it’s not! Cucamelon doesn’t share any relation to cucumbers or watermelon, and the plant is completely naturally occurring.
The botanical name is Melothria scabra, and it goes by other common names like Mexican sour gherkins (I don’t find them to be all that sour!). This plant is native to Central America so you know that it can handle some serious heat, drought, and rain.
This is not a fussy plant at all, which makes it perfect for first time gardeners and for kids. Cucamelon is a twining vine that needs a trellis to climb on. I am not sure whether this would be easy to start from seed, but I had no issues getting this plant to quickly produce fruit from young plants.
Any stems that touch the ground will start to send down roots. This makes the plant particularly resistant to drought and heat, and it’s possible you might have luck starting new plants from cuttings. On the downside, this growth habit could make this plant very weedy so don’t put it in a place where you can’t easily take it out (ours is growing in a raised bed).
We’ve only been growing cucamelon in Gandy’s Garden for 3 months, but gardeners report this plant will come back each year in mild climates like South Carolina (USDA zone 8 and warmer). While it’s great that this doesn’t have to be replanted, keep in mind, that it’s a vigorous grower.
Cucamelon sounds like an intimidating plant at first, but just like it’s easy growth habit, it’s pretty easy on the tastebuds too. The flavor is very mild, like a cucumber. It has the “pop” of grapes when you bite into it’s skin which is why they’re great to eat as a snack, but I could see these doing great as a salad topper. There’s a slight sourness to these, but it’s definitely not overwhelming. If you like the taste of cucumbers and the texture of grapes, this is a must try!