How to plant and use these little wonders

What looks like a mini watermelon, tastes like a cucumber, and is classified as a berry? Cucamelons! These adorable little veggies aren’t as popular as their cucumber and melon cousins, but more and more people are growing cucamelons because they’re just so delicious.

Whether you’re looking for new dwarf species to grow or just want to expand your garden’s biodiversity, read on. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about growing cucamelons this year.


What are Cucamelons?

Also known as Mexican sour pickles, Melothria scabra fruits are members of the Cucurbits family. This means that they are related to cucumbers, melons, squash, pumpkins and other squash cousins.

Cucamelons are native to Central America, although they have relatives throughout North and South America. If you’re looking for them in the wild, be sure to pick up the right ones.

They have cousins ​​that look like them and are quite poisonous if eaten, like M.charantia and Mr. Pendulum. In contrast, Mr. scabra the fruits are totally safe. If you grow them from seeds or seedlings purchased from a nursery, you’ll be sure to get the right ones.

These fruits grow on vines similar to cucumbers or melons, but their fruits are tiny. In fact, they only grow to the size of a grape! This makes them ideal for growing on patios and balconies.

They are adored by children who love other small fruits and vegetables. If your toddler loves cherry tomatoes and baby carrots, he’ll probably enjoy cucamelons too.

Planting and support

Whether you are sowing from seed or planting seedlings from a nursery, be sure to give your plants plenty of room. These vines can grow to over 12 feet long and can also spread quite a bit.

Plant the seeds 1/2 inch deep, two feet apart. If you plant seedlings instead, give them the same space between the plants. Then water them well and let the sun work its magic.

Since these vines can get so tall, it’s important that you provide them with a support structure to climb on. Aim for a sturdy metal or wooden trellis, or create one with a livestock fence. Then tie the seedlings to your trellis as soon as they reach 6 inches in height.

Keep training them and securing them to the trellis as they grow, and their fruit hangs through the trellis.

This support structure provides additional benefits. By raising the plants off the ground, there is less chance of pathogens like powdery mildew thriving on them. Plus, they’re less likely to fall prey to slugs and other soil-crawling pests.

Sun and Soil Requirements

Cucamelons are native to South and Central America, so they need plenty of sunlight to thrive. They are perennial in USDA growing zones 7 and above, but grown as annuals in zones 2 through 11.

Like other members of the squash family, they are big eaters. Therefore, they need well-drained soil that is rich in compost and rich in nutrients. Make sure to amend your soil with well-rotted compost before planting

Place your cucamelons in the sunniest spot you have. They need at least six hours of direct sunlight or they will falter.

Note that, like other fruiting plants like tomatoes, squash, and pumpkins, they can be prone to blossom end rot (BER). This happens when there is not enough calcium in the soil before the flowering period of the plant.

The way to avoid this is to test your soil before planting. If it is low in calcium, amend the soil with gypsum or lime. Then be sure to water appropriately. Too little or too much water makes it difficult to absorb nutrients such as calcium, and this is what leads to BER.

Watering and feeding

These plants need some moisture, but they don’t like being waterlogged. Make sure they get at least an inch of water per week, including rainfall.

On that note, be sure to always water these plants at ground level. This is because overhead watering makes them more vulnerable to fungal problems. Aim for a drip line at ground level or water the soil around their stems with your hose or watering can.

If you absolutely must water from above with a sprinkler or similar, do it early in the morning. This will allow the hot midday sun to evaporate excess water before the fungi take hold.

Potential pests and diseases to watch out for

When growing cucamelons, look for the same pesky problems that can plague other members of the family. Cucurbits family.

Slugs and Snails

They are the bane of many cucumber and melon gardens, and these plants are not exempt from them. This is why it is so important to train your plants when growing cucamelons. Raising the vines and leaves off the ground will greatly reduce slug and snail predation.

If you have ducks or guinea fowl, let them run around your garden. They will eat these insects right next to the vine for you. Pellets and hand picking also help.

Don’t bother with copper strips or crushed oyster shells on the soil surface. These methods do not work, according to studies.


These insidious morons are popping up all over the place, aren’t they? You can reduce the aphid population by releasing ladybugs into your garden. You can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth (DE) on the plants themselves. This should also reduce them considerably.

A final option is to blow them up with a pipe. However, the latter can damage your plants, so use this option as a last resort.

Powdery mildew

Although it is rampant in hot and humid conditions, there are some preventative measures you can take. When training your growing cucamelons, be sure to cut off excess foliage. This will allow for more air circulation and more exposure to the sun. As a result, fungal spores will have less chance of sticking to the leaves and thriving.

Check your vines daily to see if there is any indication that mold is present. If there is, immediately remove the affected plant material and burn it. Then spray the plants with diluted apple cider vinegar or neem oil. This could catch the contagion before it spreads.

That said, if it is persistent, you will need to uproot your plants and burn them. Then, turn the soil over so the sun can kill the mold spores, and don’t plant squash or melons in it for at least three years.

mosaic virus

The mosaic virus can affect any member of the Cucurbits family. As such, be sure to regularly check any cucumbers, squash, pumpkins or melons you grow.

There is no cure for mosaic virus, so your best bet is to keep your garden as clean as possible. Rotate your crops regularly and remove all debris from the soil surface. Eliminate aphids if they appear and remove dead or dying leaves so they don’t rot under the plants.

If mosaic virus symptoms begin to appear (i.e. discolored leaves that show a “mosaic” type pattern), uproot the plants and burn them immediately. This will prevent the virus from spreading elsewhere in your garden.

Then keep that area free of plants for a few years. Dig up the soil, sterilize it and dispose of it safely. Next, bring in new, clean, healthy soil before planting a completely different crop in it.

Best Companion Plants

Cucumelons are ideal companions in the “three sisters” gardens with corn and peas or beans. You can also grow them with tomatoes, dill and various lettuces.

If you are growing your mini cukes on a tunnel trellis, consider growing your leafy greens in marbled shade below. This will maximize the space to double your yield in this area.

Harvest and storage

Harvest your cucamelon fruits when they are no taller than 1″. If you let them get bigger than that, they can get shabby and bitter.

You can use these fruits the same way you would use regular cucumbers. They have a lovely mild flavor with just a hint of lime and are delicious in fresh salads, salsas and even green juices.

Try turning them into salsa verde with tomatillos if you want to make your own preserves. Or marinate them whole with garlic, dill and Pickle Crisp for crisp snacks all winter long. Alternatively, if you plan to only eat them fresh, they will keep for up to a week if refrigerated.

There really is no downside to growing cucamelons. They are adorable additions to any garden and are particularly well suited to small spaces. Consider growing them as a privacy screen between apartments or growing them on gazebos for outdoor shade.

Then, brush up on these beauties as you stroll outside. In fact, you could even plan your balcony garden for pick-your-own veggie nights. Grow cucamelons, cherry or currant tomatoes and various herbs, and voila!

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