Mouse Melons: The Cutest Fruit

Mouse Melons: The Cutest Fruit

There are many beautiful fruits out there, and I’m sure you’ve grown some that you thought were drop-dead gorgeous. But would you say many of them were cute?

Let’s say you’ve got a plant that looks like the biggest garden fruit, i.e. watermelon, but is the size of a grape tomato. Voila! Cutest fruit around.

Mouse melons, or cucamelons, are relatively new to the gardening community, and images of handfuls of these tiny melons are showing up all over the internet. So small, so cute, so many adorable photo opportunities.

Bunny Calico Critter viewing the Mouse Melon harvest
Mouse Melons happen to be the perfect size “watermelon” for Calico Critters to enjoy.

Growing Mouse Melons

A tiny cucamelon and its flower. To show the size, the twine it is climbing is kitchen twine, less than 1/8 inch thick.

They grow a lot like cucumbers, just smaller (if you need more of a guide on growing them, check out my Cucumber Growing Guide). And when I say smaller, I mean like a bonsai cucumber vine. The leaves are so small, the vines feel very delicate, and the flowers are downright miniature. They would do well in a hanging basket or medium-to-large pot, or in the ground.

Cucamelon vines
This view shows you how little of my bamboo trellis the full-grown vines take up. That’s 3 vines growing at the far end going up the white twine.

You can trellis them, but be sure to offer them something very thin to grasp onto, like twine. Because of their tiny size, my bamboo trellis branches were too wide for it to grip. And, be sure to protect the vines from strong wind, or your fruit may go flying. I happened to plant them close enough to our grape trellis that the wind was blocked by grape leaves and my mouse melons thrived.

Where to Get Mouse Melon Seeds

Botanical Interests is where I obtained my seeds, and they sprouted and grew very well. 

Harvesting and Flavor

A nearly ripe cucamelon
An almost-ripe mouse melon. I would give it a day or two before picking, to let the green fade, so I get that yummy sour flavor.

So at first I was wholly unimpressed with the flavor of these little guys (even though popping a whole little fruit into your mouth and crunching on it is very satisfying). The flavor was basically “bland cucumber” (yes, that’s possible). I was picking them before they got too large (roughly large-grape-sized) thinking that, like cucumbers and squash, they would get less tasty when larger.

But, I find that if you harvest when they get a bit larger, more like a grape tomato, when the color fades a bit, they have a slightly sour taste that’s very interesting. Another name for them is Mexican sour gherkin, so that makes sense to me now.

I hope that I can get enough to pickle some, because I think that would make a great snack. However, I only have about 5 vines in the two mounds I planted, and sadly, that’s just not producing enough for a huge harvest. And huge for these little guys would be like filling a pint jar.

If you want to have more on hand than a novelty photo prop and a fun off-the-vine nibble, I would grow several more hills of them–at least 20 plants. Luckily, due to their tiny size, you won’t need that much room to do that.

Update September 10, 2019: So, it turns out my cucamelon vines were just getting started producing, and my two hills gave me more than enough fruit to make some refrigerator pickles. I used this recipe but found it is off on volume (it says the liquid you make is for 1 pint, but it’s actually double that). So, I have two quart jars with 1 cup each of mouse melons in them, but it means room to add more later, so I ain’t complaining!

Harvested Mouse Melons
My huge 2-cup harvest!
Cooking pickling liquid
Creating the flavorful pickling liquid using home-grown jalapenos, plus garlic and bay leaves.
Jar of cucamelon pickles in the fridge
My cucamelons in the fridge, just starting their flavorful journey to pickledom.

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