Have you ever tried growing miniature vegetables? Small versions of full-sized vegetables are the latest trend in specialty gardening, and they’re popping up in gourmet shops and high-end restaurants everywhere.
Over the last few seasons of “You Can Grow It”, our garden master Jim Duthie has introduced us to some tasty and unusual things you can grow in your garden. Today he has something new and different to show us. And he says it will be one of the most interesting plants you’ve ever grown.
Every year, I try to grow something in my garden that I’ve never grown before. And I’ve got something this year that most of you have probably never heard of. Cucamelons!
A couple of years ago, I introduced you to garden huckleberries. Unlike the huckleberries that grow wild throughout much of northern and central Idaho, these huckleberries are a special variety that does really well in our hot valley summers.
As you can see, I’ve got another good crop on just six bushes. I’ll be making huckleberry jam and jelly, huckleberry syrup and eating huckleberry pancakes again this fall.
Last year I told you about ground cherries, which are sometimes called husk tomatoes. These little bushes put out a lot of these little lantern-shaped fruits that start out green and then turn brown as they ripen. I know they’re ready when they fall off the bush.
The husk is like tissue paper. Just peel it back, and you’ll find these little yellow berry-sized fruits. They have a nutty taste, with a hint of pineapple. They’re delicious to eat plain, or in a fruit salad, and even made into jam.
This year, I want to show you something different that you might want to try in your own garden next year. It’s called a cucamelon.
Cucamelons are also known as Mexican sour gherkins, or mouse melons, but I like the name cucamelon better, because that’s exactly what they are. Imagine a watermelon the size of a grape that tastes like a cucumber, with a touch of lime.
Cucamelons are a rediscovered heirloom fruit. These little egg-shaped fruits look just like a tiny watermelon. And they’re so easy to grow! They like full sun, and do well in almost any soil, and they’re resistant to most pests. Just keep them well-watered and let them grow.
Cucamelons grow on a delicate vine that does best climbing on a trellis or up some twine, so it doesn’t require very much space. Tiny little blossoms produce the little melons. When they ripen, they fall off the vine, or you can pick them when they get to be about the size of a grape, but are still firm to the touch.
Slice one open and you can see it looks a lot like a cucumber.
The fruit can be eaten straight off the vine. No need to peel them. Add them to salads, or to stir fry, or slice them and put them on sandwiches. They can also be pickled just like a regular cucumber.
If you want to try growing cucamelons in your garden next year, it takes a little planning. You probably won’t find a cucamelon plant where you buy your other vegetable plants in the spring.
But you can find cucamelon seeds in some seed catalogs. One of my favorite is the non-profit Seed Savers Exchange. There are also several other online sites that sell the seeds. Then you can start the seeds indoors in the spring and plant them once the weather warms up.
Cucamelons make a fun and interesting addition to the garden, and you can grow it.