How to grow Mouse Melons (Mexican Gherkin)

How to grow Mouse Melons (Mexican Gherkin)

It has become a star of sorts at my farmers Market stall.

Something of a novelty, that starts conversations.

Size of a grape and look of a melon with a lemony taste to boot.

Suddenly it found itself in the limelight, gaining popularity.

Nowadays more is written and talked about Mouse Melon or Mexican Sour Gherkin.

Because it is more of a cucumber than melon, it has a name Cucamelon as well.

A relative to cucumber, the species Melothria scabra is mostly found in the wilds in Central America. As the popularity grows, now it is being cultivated in the home gardens. With its small stature and easiness to grow, they are loved by container gardeners.

Unlike regular cucumbers, it is a prolific vine with thin stems, producing endless supply of tiny fruits, throughout the summer season, until the frost kills it. As they grow more than 10 feet, they can be trained to grow ona trellis and it makes it easier to harvest the tiny fruit that are hiding under the leaves.

It is almost disease free. If you grow cucumbers, you know what I mean!

What do they need to grow?

As they are tropical plants, they need plenty of sunlight. They will be healthy and productive with more sunlight.

Draining soil
They don’t like water-clogged soil. It will lead to root rot and eventually death. Drainage can be improved with plenty of compost and manure.

For the production of fruits it gives, it needs ample amount of nutrition. Again compost, manure and other natural fertilisers will help them produce. Add more fertiliser once they started flowering.

Yes, they do need water. But not standing water. They survived almost a month of drought in my garden. If you see them withering, give plenty of water. Otherwise, regular watering should be fine.

If you leave them, they will spread and take over the place, not to mention the difficulty of harvesting. Give them a good support, they will get more sunlight and pay you back big time. Train them along the trellis, instead of them spreading on their own in every direction.

As the vines overcrowd, they fight for sunlight. When the size becomes bigger than the trellis, don’t be afraid to prune the tip. It will grow sideways. So prune wisely to spread the growth.

Plant produces male and female flowers and pollinated by insects. If you see lot of flowers and less fruiuts, pollinate manually using brushes or cotton swabs.

Not much to talk about. They had a rampant growth, while my cucumbers withered and died. No wilting or mildew.

Pick ripe ones to encourage more flowering. Ripe fruits will be one to one and half inch in length. Some them will fall off the vines and can be found in the ground.

Seed Saving

You can save the seeds easily and they keep their species purity by not cross-pollinating with other cucumbers. So you can plant them close to other cucumbes and still save the seeds.
Let the fruits ripen and fall off the vine and collect them. Cut them open and squeeze the seeds. You can dry them or put them in water for few days and once the seeds get to the bottom, strain them and try them on paper towels.
Once dry, put them in envelopes and save them in a cool and dry place.

How to use

  • Eat them fresh off the vine. Once you get the taste, you will love it. With crunchy skin, lemony flavor and cucumber-like texture, it is a bite-sized beauty.
  • Put them in salads. Replace mouse melons for the recepies that call for cucumbers.
  • Pickle them like dill pickle or sweet gherkin.
  • Add them to salsas for texture and flavour.
  • You can even stir fry them with other vegetables, meat and rice.
  • Some adventures use them in martinis instead of olives. You can use them in desserts too.

I always have people coming back for mouse melons at the farmers markets.

Isn’t it lovely to make someone love what you love to grow?