Love Cucumbers? Try Rare Cucamelons

If you are looking for something unique to grow in your garden, you may want to try a couple of exotic varieties. Both are called “cucamelons” and are small, prolific and look like mini-melons but taste like cucumbers.
    Mexican sour gherkins are native to Mexico and Central America, but are cold and drought tolerant. Start seeds indoors or plant in the ground after danger of frost has past, and use a trellis or wire to get the vines off the ground. The 1-in. dia. fruits start to produce in July and are prolific until frost. Pick when firm and the fruit pulls easily off the vine. They can be pickled, used in stirfry, salsas and salads, or eaten fresh. Not many seed companies carry them but we found them at Park Seed, Johnny Seed and Burpee for about $3 for 30 seeds.
    West Indian burr gherkins are ornamental in addition to tasting good. Thought to have originated in Africa, then taken to Jamaica, they were introduced to the U.S. in the 1700’s and appreciated by Thomas Jefferson. They do well in hot humid weather.
    When picked young and tender they taste like a mild cucumber. As the spine-like bumps get tough, they develop a lemony taste. The burr gherkins can be eaten raw, used in salads, cooked like zucchini, and pickled. We found seeds for them at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (25-35 seeds for $3) and at Caribbean Garden Seed (50 seeds for $3.46).