Friday, June 25, 2021

Long Dark Armenian Cucumber 2020

So – this will probably need to be filed under the “wasn’t successful because I started too late” category. In order to ensure a successful harvest, plants that require a longer growing season should be started earlier. Because of the previous issues I had with squirrels and the results that this had on the timing of planting out my Carosello Massafra, I was delayed in planting out this crop.

The plants grew alright, but by the time I got them in, the summer was beginning to wane. They grew alright for a little while, but as the days grew shorter and the nights grew colder, powdery mildew became more and more apparent. I attempt to fight the problem with a couple bacterial fungicides – with mixed results. Eventually, I just cut down all but the most mature cucumber and tossed the bulk of the vines in the yard waste bin.

After growing out this variety several times I now know that I need to try this variety one last time early in the season and provide it with ample opportunity to thrive. Hopefully, I will then be able to harvest vigorous seed that can outgrow most of the problems that I have encountered with this cucumber the last two times I have grown it.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Backyard Mexican Sour Gherkins take over

Growing the Mexican Sour Gherkin this year was a relatively new concept for me. I had never grown Melothria scabra and I figured that it may do good in rotation with the other plants that I grew out in my garden. I had one friend tell me that he couldn’t get enough of them while some of the reviews that I previously read described the outer skin as a tough rind and the inner skin as having texture akin to snot. Given the fact that everyone was purchasing these seeds from me, I decided that it was worth it to at least give the plants a try.




























The plants mature slowly though will grow rapidly later in the season and will often produce tuberous roots that can be used to grow out plants in subsequent years.

The Melothria scabra, which originates in Mexico, has many names, including Sandita or Sandia de Raton, Mouse Melon, Mexican Sour Gherkin or Cucamelon. Many companies will sell Melothria scabra by one of these names, but for the most part they are all Melothria scabra.

The vines produce little female flowers first (without a pollinator) while the male flowers appear later, often in small clusters.

It took several weeks of both male and female flowers for bees to finally notice my plants and begin pollinating them. Though I did attempt to hand-pollinate them previous to the work of bees, I was only minimally successful. The few fruits that I hand-pollinated were not nearly as big or as perfectly oval as the ones that had been visited by bees.

My first taste of cucamelon made me think of something crunchy, yet juicy, with a somewhat tolerable inner texture, a taste of melon rind and a slight hint of acidity akin to a lemon. While the leaves and fruit are cute, those factors may not be enough to redeem it. I can only imagine that there are plenty of individuals who, only being familiar with the taste and texture of regular cucumbers – feel that this kind of cucumber wonderful. However, having grown multiple Carosello varieties that exceed these grape-sized crunchy fruits in every way, I was left feeling a little like “Meh”.

While my initial views of the cucamelon were not exactly positive, I would have to say that my opinion of the plants improved over time. Though the cucamelon does not exactly attract the praise of those who would prefer a fine textured delicious vegetable, the vines have staying power. Long after other cucurbits have succumbed to disease and cold weather, the cucamelons prevail. Only a real freeze will kill the plant back to the main stems. Until then, the plant will continue to grow out further and further into every possible nook and cranny that possesses any form of usable light.

The cucamelon's ability to produce tuberous roots would make it an excellent, though slightly invasive, perennial in more moderate climates. Yes – the cucamelon has many unique qualities that set it apart from other cucumbers and make it a very useful alternative to those who would otherwise not enjoy cucumbers.

So here is my opinion of the cucamelon, from 0-10, 0 being worst and 10 being the best. Taste: 4 (better than Diva – which to me tastes like grass), Texture: 3 (tolerable) Staying power: 9+, Other interesting attributes: 7

So there you have it – a very cute interesting cucumber alternative that requires very little maintenance and could provide you and your family with years of production from a single seed.