Have you heard about cucamelons? Don’t worry – we weren’t aware of this unusual fruit until recently as well. Apparently, this fruit has become all the rage in the last year and it’s all thanks to its health benefits.
Cucamelons, also known as sandiita in Spanish, is a small fruit that resembles a watermelon. The size is the main reason why it’s popularly called “mouse melon” all around the world. Cucamelons grow the size of a grape and have a taste that resembles a mixture of cucumber and lime. The sour fruit grows on a vine and has ivy-like leaves, and although most people think they’re a genetically modified hybrid, they are not – cucamelons have been eaten in South American since pre-Columbian times.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CUCAMELONS
Just because they’re tiny doesn’t mean that cucamelons aren’t healthy – in fact, they have a rich nutritional profile and are low in calories. The abundance in essential nutrients reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, while also delaying the process of aging. Cucamelons are rich in lycopene, a carotenoid important for your heart, and beta-carotene, an antioxidant that can prevent age-related cardiovascular problems. The fruit also contains potassium and vitamin C, which can lower your cholesterol levels and regulate your blood pressure, while the phytonutrients support the proper function of your eyes and every internal organ.
WHY YOU NEED TO GROW CUCAMELONS AT HOME
They are hard to find, but cucamelons can be easily grown at home. This will get you a steady supply of the incredible fruit that can easily improve your overall health. The exotic plant will soon become the staple of your garden – it looks unique and also tastes exotic. The plant doesn’t require any special needs and is drought resistant. They can be grown pretty much anywhere just like cucumbers. Here are the steps you should follow:
PURCHASE THE SEEDS
Cucamelon seeds are not easily available, but you can find them online for a low price. Just Google it and we’re sure you’ll find something. Also, when choosing the seeds, go for the high-quality organic ones. As they are hard to come by, save some of them – just pick a ripe fruit and put it in a cool place, then open it in two weeks and keep the seeds in a jar with water for 15 days. Take them out afterwards and let them dry, then store them in an envelope.
Cucamelons are annual plants in most areas of the world, but they are perennial in general. They need 68-75 days of warm climate and soil temperatures between 75-85 F, so if you’re growing them in pots at home, make sure to take them inside once temperatures drop to below 50.
START GROWING THEM INDOORS
You should start growing cucamelons indoors in April or May. It’s best to start like this, then transplant them outside once the frost is gone. You can also plant a seed in each pot, then put the pots in a greenhouse at 72 F. Cucamelons are slow starters, so you’ll need time for them to grow. They also need time to germinate – it could take up to a month to notice the green shoots.
CHOOSE THE PLANTING LOCATION WISELY
Cucamelons need sun and rich soil, so put them at a southern place and allow at least 12-square inches of space for every plant. They need a 6-hours minimum sunlight exposure to stay healthy and grow.
INSTALL A WIRE CAGE OR TRELLIS
As their vines can climb up to 10 feet, cucamelons need a good structure to keep the stems and fruit off the ground. Install a trellis or cage on which they can grow on, and you will be surrounded by their beautiful vines.
THE RIGHT SOIL
Like most fruits, cucamelons need a lot of nutrition and good soil drainage. The soil should contain compost or aged manure to keep the fruit nourished, and add a tablespoon of 6-10-10 fertilizer as well in each hole for the plant to boost the quality of the soil. Adding perlite or lava rocks will improve the drainage. Once you establish the nutrition, cucamelons don’t need nothing else than 3-inch side-dressing of compost each month.
In order for your cucamelons to grow, you’ll need a steady supply of water. An inch of water 5-7 days in the summer is required on the top 6-15 inches of the soil. When it’s very hot, add water to the soil twice a week. If you live in a foggy and cold area, monitor the soil during periods that lack sun. Add water in the top inch of the soil if it dries out. During the summer, it’s a good idea to put 3-4 inch layers of mulch around the plants in order to protect them from invaders and regulate moisture.
PEST ISSUES AND RE-SEEDING
Besides being tolerant to rough conditions, cucamelons are also ignored by most pests. The plants reseed on their own, so they’re an excellent addition to a permaculture garden of food forest.
TRAINING THE GROWING VINES
Wrap the vines around the trellis in any way you want as they tend to grow in most directions.
Once the flowering starts, cucamelons will follow not to soon after. Harvest them when they reach a plump size and are nice and firm to the touch. Pick them at an earlier stage to stimulate more fruits to grow. Cucamelons need 2-3 weeks to grow after pollinations. Harvest them by picking them off the fruit – if you do it carefully, they will continue growing for a long time, and you should have a steady supply of fruits from July to November. However, if you’re new to it, don’t expect large fruit in the first year. You can expect several handfuls of the fruit the first year, just make sure to avoid disturbing the tubers when cutting foliage in the fall.
You don’t need anything fancy when it comes to pruning cucamelons – light pruning is best to keep the excess foliage on the trellis. Trim off any dying leaves to boost the growth of new ones and keep the plant in tip-top shape.
Once they’re ripe, cucamelons can be eaten raw or added to salsa, stir-fries and salads. You can also put them in a martini glass, or toss them with peppers and olives with a bit of salt and olive oil. You can pickle cucamelons too – pre-salt them and you’ll get better results afterwards.