Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumbers

Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumbers

This summer I had cucumbers climbing all over my garden, from the cream-colored orbs of my Dragon’s Eggs to the slender and striated Metki Painted Serpents. But the biggest crowd pleasers of the season have got to be these little guys — Mexican Sour Gherkins.

Mexican Sour Gherkins look like lilliputian watermelons

Looking like lilliputian watermelons with their distinctive dark and light green “rinds,” they make up in character what they lack in size. The Mexican Sour Gherkin (Melothria scabra) is an heirloom native to Mexico and Central America, where it’s known as sandita (little watermelon). But it tastes neither sour nor watermelon-y; the palm-sized fruit is bright and tangy on the tongue, like cucumber with a twist of lemon. A cucamelon, if you will.

Mexican Sour Gherkins have been around since pre-Columbian times, but were not brought into botanical classification until the mid-1800s. Despite being a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, they’re only distantly related to the cucumber and will not cross with other cucumber varieties. They’re also said to be the most cold-tolerant of all cukes, and will continue to fruit until the first frost. (Seeing as we don’t get frost here in zone 10b, I’m hoping to sow a second crop this fall for winter harvesting!)

The vines are more delicate and compact than those of typical cucumbers, and in peak season, my trellises are covered with handfuls of gherkins peeking out from between ivy-shaped leaves.

Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumbers grow on compact vines

Mexican Sour Gherkin plants have ivy-shaped leaves

Growing from teeny tiny blossoms, they never get more than an inch or so long and tend to drop from the vines as soon as they’re ripe.

Baby cucamelon

A mature cucamelon next to a new blossom

True to their gherkin namesake, these cucumbers are well suited to pickling whole. You may be familiar with another term for those pint-sized pickles — cornichon, the French word for gherkin. In various Spanish dialects and Native American tongues, the cukes are known by a myriad of monikers that ultimately translates into mouse melon.

But no matter what you call it (personally, I’m partial to cucamelon), this variety is now a summer staple for me. Cute, crunchy, perfect for pickling — and I’ll share one of my favorite recipes, a classic bread ‘n butter, in my next post!

Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumbers aka mouse melons

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September 22 2012      21 comments     Linda Ly
Jardín   Verduras

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  • Megan

    We planted these this year for the first time. We didn’t use a trellis to start with and they started to take over the whole yard! Definitely know better for next year. ;)

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      For being such prolific plants, their leaves are deceptively small compared to other cucumbers!

  • Jenny

    I want to grow these! How many seeds did you plant? Approximately how many gherkins grew on one vine? Thanks.

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      I sowed one seed every 3-4 inches and probably had a 4-foot row. I’m not really sure how many gherkins grow per vine, dozens? I had several plants going up a trellis so I harvested a lot!

  • giannis

    Hi am Giannis Doskaris from Greece. I would to ask what is the harvest of the vine? What is the taste?

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      It tastes like a tart cucumber. See post above! ^

  • http://www.elkhorninnwv.com elisse

    Love these! I got the plants from The Drunken Botanist seed collection at Territorial Seed Company- and they are the first vines of Any kind that have ever done well in our so. WV garden!! They are adorable, too! I’m about to pickle 100+ of them so we can throw them in cocktails instead of olives or onions! :-)

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  • bridget in Cleveland

    Our vine is growing madly and lots of tiny fruit. How will I know when they are ripe?

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      If they fall off the vine easily, they’re ripe. Mine have never grown to be more than an inch long.

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  • PJ

    these are cool, I read this post back last year but the cucamelons weren’t available in the UK then – they’re all over the news now AND I can finally buy the seeds! from this site: http://www.suttons.co.uk/

  • Suegeiger53

    I live in North Dakota and like the fact that these little guys can handle some coolness. I would LOVE to plant some of these but have mnever seen or heard of anything like them.  Do you know where I could possibly order seed for these ffrom some place????? Sure would appreciate any help you could offer  me. I love to can, love your site, stumbled on it by accident. But got you on Pinterest now!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Thanks for the love! My seeds came from http://rareseeds.com.

      • http://www.elkhorninnwv.com elisse

        I got my plants from the Drunken Botanist Seed Collection at Territorial Seed Company and they did Great- THE first cucumber/squash/melon vine of Any kind that’s done well in our so. WV garden!

  • Misti @oceanicwilderness.com

    Interesting (here via Small Measure) cucumbers. We have a smaller, similar, native Melothria pendula but I’m not sure it is edible. Will have to investigate these a bit more! (love your blog so far!)

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Thank you Misti! Please do stick around!

  • http://bellandstar.blogspot.com/ Bell and Star

    It’s my first year growing them and I am hooked! I’ll definitely be giving them a prime spot in the garden next year as my harvest was really measly this time.

  • Dallasgardenbuzz

    Love the look of these and imaging the taste.  did you grown the vine from seeds or transplant.  I bought a transplant and it grew all over the fence but the little blossoms never developed any further.

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