Have your typical recipes been seeming a little…sour? Mixing a new fruit into your diet is a great way to refresh your palette and the Mexican sour cucumber might be just what you’ve been looking for.
Never heard of this little cuke? Then keep reading to learn all about the Mexican sour cucumber and how it can bring your dishes and drinks to life!
What is the Mexican Sour Cucumber?
Commonly called cucamelons, this cute cucumber is identified by its startlingly similar appearance to a tiny watermelon. While small in size, the cucamelon has a satisfying crunch paired with a fresh citrus flavor. Imagine that clean cucumber taste with a whisper of lime.
History of the Mouse Melon
Mexican sour cucumbers are from the Cucurbit family and originate from Mexico and Central America. They were cultivated by the Indigenous groups of these regions, such as the Aztecs and the Mayans. In Central America, they are known as “sanditas”- little watermelons.
These mini mouse melons have been passed down through centuries, right to today’s modern gardens!
Only a little larger than a grape, this cucumber resembles a pinwheel filled with small, soft seeds when cut in half. They grow spaced out along delicate crawling vines and are mottled with patches of light green.
They can also be called a mouse melon or sour gherkin.
Eating Mexican Sour Cucumbers
The uniqueness of the appearance and flavor of the mouse melon make it a fun addition to both dishes and drinks. The slightly bitter and lime-like flavor works as a great enhancement to everyday recipes.
Cooking with Cucamelon
Like your common cucumber, the cucamelon is very easy to cook with. It adds a nice flavor and crunch to salads, sandwiches, or even more advanced meals. When in doubt, a very common use for them is to throw them in a pickle jar!
Check out some fun ideas below to get you started with cooking with the Mexican sour cucumber.
One of the simplest ways to enjoy this fruit is to incorporate it into your salads. This Cucamelon Salad is light and easy to make, with simple ingredients.
These little melons also look great as a drink garnish. You can take your classic gin and tonic to the next level with this recipe for Cucamelon Gin and Tonics.
If you want to be a little more adventurous, be sure to try this Snapper Sashimi with cucamelons and jalapenos. This dish will add a spicy twist to your dinner table.
The easiest way to eat them, of course, is to pick them right from the vine. Sour gherkins make a great snack for kids and adults alike. They fit right in the palm of your hand!
What are the Health Benefits?
The Mexican sour cucumber may be small, but the list of health benefits it has acquired is anything but. Among its best qualities are the cucamelon’s high levels of potassium, vitamin c, and fiber. All of these attributes are excellent for the elimination of toxins and for lowering cholesterol.
Another fantastic benefit of this fruit is that it is said to greatly improve heart health. The antioxidants it contains are helpful for cardiac function and blood pressure.
If you’re not sold yet, the sour gherkin is also accredited with assisting in anti-aging. Consuming this fruit can aid in rejuvenating your cells, tissues, and organs.
Growing the Mexican Sour Cucumber
Now that you’ve explored the possibilities of cooking with the mouse melon, let’s talk about getting these little guys into your home garden!
Optimal Conditions for Growth – Keeping them Happy
Before you begin planting, know that a happy Mexican sour cucumber thrives in sunny weather and loose soil. Keeping the soil moist, but not drenched is key. I recommend soil that is loamy or sandy for best results.
These plants prefer weather similar to their climate of origin. The late spring and summer months are optimal. You want the nights to be warm as well — frost is harmful to growth.
These vines can grow pretty long, so it’s best to consider a trellis or some form of support for the plant to climb.
How to Plant and Grow Cucamelons
The more desired option is to grow these fruits outdoors rather than inside. Cucamelons are delicate and do not transplant easily.
When planting, you can space out your seeds however you desire. A few inches apart, the plants are likely to grow together in a tangle of vines. They do well planted separately, or alongside other greenery as well.
These are fast-growing plants that fertilize on their own. They’re also drought-tolerant, so they pretty much take care of themselves. Just be sure they are getting around an inch of water each week. You should see a mature plant within 60 to 70 days.
Growing Season Care Tips
- Partial shade is recommended in hot regions with intense sunlight.
- Growing your plants on a trellis will help avoid potential pests and diseases, plus provide sturdy support.
- Mix the soil with compost for nutrient richness.
- To protect the young plant during colder weather, try covering them with a frost cover or cloche.
While it is possible to harvest the cucamelon seed to plant for the following year, there is a second option. The fruit’s roots have tubers about a foot down in the earth. These are perennial, and in the right conditions, will grow in the next season.
You can collect tubers and store them over the winter in a dark and cool place. Just be sure they won’t freeze where you place them.
Cellars or garages are a great place to store a container of tubers. Add some moist soil to the container and you’re all set. To replant the tubers, place them in soil about an inch or two down.
In warmer climates with mild winters, all you need to do is trim back the vines and you will see new buds the following growing season.
Where to Buy Seeds
While finding Mexican sour cucumber seeds may be difficult in your local grocery stores or farmers’ markets, you can find seeds online at one of our favorite seed retailers, True Leaf Market.
Sour is Pretty Sweet
The Mexican sour cucumber is not only adorable to look at, but filled with great reasons to add this cute cuke to your grocery list. From its refreshing flavor to its various healthy qualities, you can’t go wrong choosing the cucamelon!
For more information on cucumbers, head over to our Cucumbers page, where you will find more blog posts about the varieties, care, and growing of cucumber plants!