Have you ever had a cucamelon? These adorable little fruits are a ton of fun to grow and eat. They taste like a citrusy cucumber and can be eaten pickled, tossed into salads, or fresh from the garden. The tangy, bright flavor and mini-watermelon look makes these melons a big hit with everyone, and if you are gardening with kids these cute baby melons are an effective way to show little ones the magic of the garden.
Cucamelons (Melothria scabra), also called “Mexican sour gherkins” and “mouse melons” are native to Central America. Although they are not a fruit we see that often today, they were a very common part of the diet of ancient Aztec people. The little fruits look like tiny, grape-sized watermelons but have a zingy taste more like a cross between a cucumber and a lemon or lime. They are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, so adding cucamelons to your diet can really improve your overall health.
- How to Grow Cucamelons from Seed
- How to Eat Cucamelons
- More Ideas for Your Garden
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- Growing Advice
- What are Cucamelons?
- Where can I get some seed?
- How to grow Cucamelons in Melbourne
- Lifting and Storing the Cucamelon Root Ball and Tuber
- What Are Cucamelons: How To Plant Mexican Sour Gherkins
- Additional Cucamelon Plant Info
- How to Plant Mexican Sour Gherkins
- Growing Mexican Sour Gherkins
- Mexican Sour Gherkin Pickles Recipe
- How to grow sour gherkins:
How to Grow Cucamelons from Seed
When you start anything from seed, be sure to use a sterile growing medium as garden soil often contains bugs that can damage delicate seedlings. For information on how to give any seeds their best start, read Seed Starting 101.
When I first started growing cucamelons I found a lot of conflicting information out there. As a trendy crop for the home garden, I think there are some articles that have popped up from gardeners who may not have grown them personally. I have been growing cucamelons successfully now for three years, but I wanted to be sure that I gave you the best information possible, so I asked a few cucamelon experts—Kristin Crouch of That Bloomin’ Garden and Veggie Garden Remix author Niki Jabbour—for advice on growing cucamelons.
Tips for Growing Cucamelons from Kristin
Kristin Crouch is a popular garden speaker and an expert seed starter. She even gave me my first cucamelon plant! Here is her advice on growing cucamelons from seed:
- Have patience with the seeds. Cucamelons are tricky to germinate if growing from seed. Plant the seeds in seed starter mix and place the pots on heat mats in a cool greenhouse. It can take up to three weeks for seeds to germinate.
- Once they have their second set of leaves, pot each plant up to its own 4” pot with good potting soil and a pinch of organic fertilizer.
- Transplant outside after hardening the plants off for a week. Plant them outside when it’s around 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) at night consistently.
- Give cucamelons a tall support structure. Use at least 5′-6’ high supports as the cucamelon vines cling like peas do and can grow quite tall.
- Save the seeds from cucamelons and ferment them like you do with tomatoes (see how to do that here). Because the cucamelons are in a plant family of their own and not related to cucumbers, their seeds come back true each year.
Tips for Growing Cucamelons from Niki
Niki is the author of the recently released Veggie Garden Remix which shows you how (and why) to grow “224 new plants to shake up your garden and add variety, flavor, and fun.” Her Instagram images of cucamelons get people more excited than I ever thought possible, but it’s because she really knows her stuff. You can read a ton of info about growing cucamelons on pages 26-28 of Veggie Garden Remix, so if you don’t have the book yet, run and get it! Here are a few tips from the book:
- Cucamelons will tolerate a cooler spring better than cucumbers do, and once they’re established, they are quite a bit more drought tolerant.
- Heat, sun, and rich soil are the keys to growing success with these plants, so pick a site with full sun and amend the soil with aged manure or compost.
- People with limited growing space can plant them in large pots on a deck or patio; just be sure to provide something for the vigorous vines to climb.
- About a week after you see the first flowers, begin checking for ripe cucamelons. They tend to hide behind the foliage, so look closely. Once they’re about an inch long, start picking.
- The sourness of the skin intensifies as the fruits age, so pick them young if you want to minimize the citrus bite.
Excerpted from Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix © by Niki Jabbour, used with permission from Storey Publishing.
How to Eat Cucamelons
Now that you’re growing these mini melons, what do you do with them? They taste bright and refreshing, like a cucumber mixed with a lime, and go well in both sweet and savory dishes to add a little zip. Cucamelons are ready to harvest and eat when they are about the size of a grape and feel firm to the touch.
Here are a few different ways to eat your cucamelons:
- Eat them fresh from the garden. No need to remove the peel. Just pop them in your mouth!
- Pickle them. Eat on their own or add to sandwiches and wraps.
- Use a whole one as an unexpected garnish in your favorite cocktail or lemonade.
- Chop them up and add to salsas and salads for a bright flavor.
- Cook them in a stir-fry.
What’s your favorite way to eat cucamelons? Let us know in the comments!
More Ideas for Your Garden
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Scientific Name: Melothria scabra
Common Names: Mexican sour gherkin is known by many other names including mouse melon, cucamelon, Mexican sour cucumber and Mexican miniature watermelon.
Mexican sour gherkin is an ancient, open-pollinated crop native to Mexico and other central American countries. It was cultivated and eaten by indigenous peoples of these areas long before contact with the west.
Mexican sour gherkin can be pickled or eaten fresh. They’re great for adding burst of lemony cucumber flavour to salads or just for snacking on straight off the vine.
Mexican sour gherkin is more drought and pest resistant than conventional cucumbers and gherkins. They don’t suffer as badly from powdery mildew than regular cucumber varieties. They can be slow grower at first, the leaves will be soft and require regular watering when young, but is a very vigorous and productive vine once established. Produces separate male and female flowers like other cucumbers and may require hand pollination if insect pollinators are absent. Grow up a frame to keep fruit off the ground and for ease of picking.
When To Sow:
In temperate regions sow Mexican sour gherkin from September to February. In the subtropics sow from August to February. In tropical regions of Australia sow Mexican sour gherkin during the dry season from April to August.
How To Sow:
Mexican sour gherkin seeds are tiny compared to other cucumbers so sow them no deeper than 8mm into the soil. Space plants 50cm apart along a trellis to give them plenty of rooms to climb and sprawl. Choose a planting site full sun for best fruit production, but they’ll also successfully grow in light shade.
Mexican sour gherkin takes between 7 and 14 days to germinate from sowing.
Time To Harvest:
Expect to harvest your first Mexican sour gherkins 10 to 11 weeks after sowing. Pick the fruits regularly to encourage further fruit production.
What are Cucamelons?
Cucamelons are great in salads or picked straight from the vine and eaten.
Cucamelons are becoming an increasingly popular edible plant in Melbourne. More and more people are asking me how to grow them, and from where to source the seed. Last summer, I grew cucamelons for the first time, they were amazing. Here’s our guide on how to grow them, it’s pretty easy!
Cucamelons look like grape-sized watermelons and taste like cucumbers with a hint of lime.
They look like grape-sized watermelons and taste like cucumbers with a hint of lime. They’re native to Mexico and Central America. They also go by the following names: mouse melon, Mexican sour gherkin, Mexican miniature watermelon and Mexican sour cucumber. They are very drought tolerant and easy to grow.
Where can I get some seed?
Several seed companies can supply you with seed:
Fair Dinkum Seeds
Some Bunnings stores stock them these days!
How to grow Cucamelons in Melbourne
Cucamelons are very easy to grow
Cucamelons require similar growing conditions to regular cucumbers.
Choose a sunny position, with well-drained soil and provide them with a trellis for support.
Seed can either be directly sown into the soil (in late October or early November), or started early in pots in a greenhouse (from August to October). Last year I started them early in pots and they handled the transplant into soil very well.
Sow seeds about 5mm deep and space the plants about 30 to 60cm apart. It’s a good idea to sow seeds in groups of 3 to 4 and later thin to the two strongest seedlings.
They are drought tolerant plants, but they will produce more fruit if you keep them well watered.
To harvest, simply pick the fruit when they get to the size of a grape and eat.
Cucamelons are known to self-seed, so be aware that you may end up having cucamelons for years to come with very little effort. Personally, I see that as a good thing!
Lifting and Storing the Cucamelon Root Ball and Tuber
In winter you can lift the tubers of the cucamelon plants to replant next spring.
The cucamelon vines lose their leaves in winter, and you can lift the root ball and store in a cool dark place over winter to replant in spring. I’m trying this for the first time this year. When I dug them up, I was amazed at the size of the tubers that the plants had developed about a foot below the surface of the soil. I’ll replant the tubers in spring as apparently the plants will crop more prolifically and much earlier than in the first season of growth.
Have you grown cucamelons before? What did you think of their flavour? Do you have any tips on growing them for our readers?
A recent email question asked, “What are Cucamelons?”
Cucamelons (Melothria scabra) are also called Mexican sour gherkins or mouse melons. They are close relatives of cucumbers and other cucurbits and are native to Mexico and Central America and have been grown for centuries. Here in the U.S. we’ve only just “discovered” them. They are probably the cutest little things I’ve ever grown. They are rare.
We call them Mexican Miniature Watermelons and we have the seeds for sale.
Like their cucumber cousins, cucamelons are monoecious, meaning male and female flowers are borne separately on each plant. The male flowers provide the pollen while the female flowers will go on to produce the fruit. The flowers are very tiny being a 1/6 inch tiny and the little, iridescent native bees love them! Even if you don’t harvest the fruit, they make a great pollinator plant.
Don’t let the plants ramble; instead, grow them up a trellis or fence of some sort. If they’re left to spread out over the ground, harvesting them will be a major pain. There are so many fruits; you’d be bending over for hours just to harvest them all.
The seeds are extremely small, but they hold a lot of potential. Don’t plant the entire seed packet, unless you plan to eat a lot of cucamelons! Start with a dozen seeds at most. You can always grow more the following year.
Each fruit is about the size of a grape, but the texture is far crunchier than you’d expect. They make delicious little dill pickles just by using one of those pre-packaged dill pickle spice blends you can get at the grocery store. The seeds are carried by Home Farm Herbery. http://www.localharvest.org/watermelon-seeds-mexican-miniature-C26657
Another email question asks, “How Do You Garden in a Drought?”
The seasons are changing. Here I have notice for the past 2 years that February really doesn’t end until April and September is like July. Thus we act accordingly. At Home Farm Herbery we tend to use raised beds, straw bale gardening. You can grow a lot in a 4 ft x 4 ft or 4 x 8 ft raised bed and it doesn’t take a lot of watering.
If your property is not large enough to have holding ponds then seriously consider rain barrels to catch all that early spring rain. Everyone has their garden favorites, but open your mind and your palate to varieties more suited to your climate and changing weather patterns. When buying seeds, look at the plant descriptions and choose varieties that are heat tolerant. Most squashes, pumpkins, melons and beans do very well in the heat, though they still need irrigated. There are so many things that we have no control over, and the best we can do is to adapt to the changing conditions
May the Creative Force be with you as you tread the earth lightly!
Posted by Arlene @ 08:08 AM CST
What Are Cucamelons: How To Plant Mexican Sour Gherkins
What looks just like a doll-sized watermelon, is actually referred to as a cucumber, but really isn’t a cucumber at all? Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers, otherwise referred to as cucamelon, mouse melon and in Spanish, sandita or little watermelon. What exactly are cucamelons and what other cucamelon info can we dig up? Let’s find out!
Native growing Mexican sour gherkins hail from Mexico (of course) and Central America. The plant is an unbridled vining specimen with pointed, serrated leaves and small (grape sized) fruit that look exactly like miniature watermelons.
In flavor, Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers (Melothria scabra) are similar to cucumber with a fresh, tangy, succulent flavor. They can be used sautéed, pickled or fresh in salads with no need to peel the little beauties.
Additional Cucamelon Plant Info
Cucamelon is not actually a cucumber. The Cucumis genus contains members of the gourd family as well as Cucumis sativus — or cucumber. Cucamelon is a member of the genus Melothria, which isn’t a true cucumber — just an honorary one, lumped into the cucumber category due to its similar habitat and flavor.
While growing Mexican sour gherkins has been fairly commonplace south of the border, until recently Cucamelon hasn’t been cultivated in the United States. The burgeoning popularity of farmers markets and personal gardening has brought a burst in recognition for these tiny treats. Intrigued? Then let’s learn how to plant Mexican sour gherkins in the home garden.
How to Plant Mexican Sour Gherkins
These open pollinated heirlooms can be direct sown in warmer regions in April or May or started indoors earlier for late spring transplantation. Select a site in full sun.
To sow directly into the garden, till 3 inches of compost into the soil site. Sow seeds in groups of six with groups set 12 inches apart. Seeds should be sowed 2 inches from each other at a depth of about 1 inch. Water the seeds in lightly.
Thin the seedlings to 1 foot apart when the seedlings are 4 inches high. Pick the strongest seedlings and snip the rest with garden scissors. Set a cage around each seedling with a stake set on each side of the cage hammered into the soil and attached with garden twine. Mulch between the cages to repress weeds and retain water.
Water the plants at least once a week; the soil should be moist down to 3 inches deep. Side-dress the plants six weeks after planting. Remove the mulch and lay a band of compost around the cages and water in to allow the nutrients to soak into the soil around the roots. Replace the mulch around the vines.
Harvest will occur in about 70 days when fruit is 1 inch long and will continue through the fall. Cucamelon is more cold hardy than cucumber and has an extended harvest season with a profusion of fruit. Seeds can be saved for the successive year from ripe fruits that have fallen to the ground.
A prolific fruiter, Mexican sour gherkins are a fun, delicious option for the gardener. They are fairly drought tolerant, resistant to disease and pests, and are suitable for smaller spaces since the plant can be trained to grow up — all in all, a delightful addition to the garden.
Barbie Doll Watermelons, that’s what I call them, because, well… that’s what they look like. Their real name is Mexican Sour Gherkin (Melothria scabra), but they also popularly go by mouse melon, cucamelon, and sandíita (meaning little melon in Spanish).
Mexican Sour Gherkin is a rampant vining plant with small, decorative leaves that remind me of a watermelon, but much, much smaller. It hails from Mexico and Central America (the name kind of gives it away), producing diminutive, cucumber-like fruit that are slightly tangy on the outside and fresh and watery inside. They are good in salads, stir-fried, or pickled, but most of my crop never make it as far as the kitchen as its tiny size and freshness makes it a great snack while working in the garden.
Unlike either cucumber or melons the plant is incredibly easy to grow. I first started growing it in my community garden and despite changes in location and growing conditions, I have never had any trouble producing a healthy crop. The plant is drought tolerant and doesn’t seem to have any pests that I have encountered. Seedlings often start out small and frail-looking and just when you think it will never grow it finally does. And once it starts, it will keep producing more and more fruit until the frost takes the whole plant down. It’s only real issue is that it seems to need sun to really get going. For years I thought it was warmth that it needed, but this year has been unseasonably cool and it is as vigorous as ever. However, a plant that I placed in a shadier spot has not been as productive as the plant that is out in full sun. Soil nutrition is also a contributing factor — treat it as you would any other cucumber. My experience also suggests that like cucumber it prefers a protected spot out of the path of strong wind.
This year (2019) I am selling a very limited quantity of Mexican Sour Gherkin seed through my seed shop.
- Start seed when you sow other cucumbers. In cooler climates, start indoors underneath lights and move outdoors after the last frost.
- Save seed from ripe fruit that has fallen to the ground.
- Harvest and eat fruit at just about any size.
- Super productive — regularly check around the leaves as well as the ground for ripe fruit.
- Give it a warm spot in full sun and water well until the plant is established.
- Be sure to situate it in front of a large and strong support structure. I did not make a large enough structure this year and I had to cobble something together with larger bamboo poles when it outgrew a smaller frame.
- Great for small spaces as it doesn’t need a lot of space on the ground level — grow it upward and sideways as an attractive and edible privacy screen.
- Urban Gardening: It’s drought tolerant and disease and pest resistant nature makes it a good choice for community garden plots that you can’t tend to regularly.
Mexican Sour Gherkins (Melothria scabra) look like tiny watermelons and taste similar to cucumbers but are neither. Native to Mexico and Central America where they are called sanditas (little watermelon), fruits can be pickled, thrown in salads, sautéed with oil and garlic or snacked on in the garden. Kids especially enjoy searching the vine for ripe fruit. I like to mix them into ceviche and to make Mexican sour gherkin pickles.
Mexican sour gherkins are heavy producers.
Growing Mexican Sour Gherkins
Sow seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before last spring frost. Begin hardening off plants 2-3 weeks after last frost then transplant outside.
Seeds can also be sown directly into prepped soil 2-3 weeks after last spring frost.
Plant in full sun.
Plants can spread across the ground but to maximize growth (and simplify harvest) trellis plants and watch them grow up to ten feet!
Mexican sour gherkins have shallow roots. Help protect these roots by mulching the soil.
Bees are one of the pollinators of Mexican sour gherkin plants. Learn how to bring them into your garden by reading this post:
Inviting in the Bugs: 11 Plants to Increase Garden Diversity
Harvest Mexican sour gherkins when they are about the size of a fingernail. Check plants every few days for ripe fruit, they produce abundantly and regular harvest keeps plants producing. You will have a large harvest, preserve it by making Mexican sour gherkin pickles.
Snacking on gherkins in the garden.
Mexican Sour Gherkin Pickles Recipe
Like cucumbers, sour gherkins make tasty crunchy pickles. This recipe makes a small 8 oz. jar of pickles that complements the small size of the fruit. These jars make festive gifts.
Mexican sour gherkin pickle ingredients.
Makes one 8 oz. jar
- ½ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- brine spices according to taste (pinch of mustard seeds, coriander seeds, celery seeds, caraway seeds)
- 2 small garlic cloves
- sprig of dill
- ½ of one jalapeño
- pinch of peppercorns
- 3 oz. Mexican sour gherkins (between 40-50)
- Simmer the vinegar, water, salt and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
- Add brine spices if using.
- In an 8 oz. mason jar add in layers, gherkins, garlic, dill, jalapeño and peppercorns.
- Pour vinegar over gherkins, seal and refrigerate.
- You can eat these right away but their flavor improves if you wait a couple of weeks. After opening finish within one week.
Let us know what you do with Mexican Sour Gherkins in the comment section below.
Diseases & Pests
Several diseases attack cucumbers, but problems with this plant are mostly caused by cultural practices that stress the plants. Make sure you keep the garden clean and tidy, remove diseased material and do not compost unless you’re able to get a hot compost pile going. You must also avoid overwatering and directly spraying water on to the leaves. Plant in a well-drained site and use long crop rotations. Whenever possible, use disease resistant varieties.
If plants get off to a good start, few pests will bother them. If pests are present, young plants are best protected with floating row covers that are removed when flowering starts. Aphids, cutworms and thrips can be a problem. The cucumber beetle causes problems only east of the Rockies.
Sometimes fruit begins to rot on the vine. This is caused by a fungus during periods of high humidity. Pick these fruit off. The situation will improve as the weather improves.
Powdery Mildew – An airborne fungal disease that causes white spots on the leaves at the end of the season. Several home-sprays are said to be somewhat effective. Spray any of the following at 7-10 day intervals. 1tsp baking soda and 1 quart of water with a squirt of dish soap, or 1 part milk to 9 parts of water. You can add a little Kelpman to the mix. Resistant varieties get the mildew just a few days later than the other varieties.
Various wilts cause the vines to wilt and die. Controls are strict sanitation in the garden and greenhouse. Avoid over-watering, plant in well-drained soil, use long rotations, and use disease resistant varieties when available.
Aphids and thrips are indications of plant stress. Before running out to buy an insecticidal soap or other chemical solution begin to solve the problem by trying to figure what the stressors are and dealing with them. Are the plants over or under watered? What fertilizer are you using? Is it a balanced organic fertilizer? Predatory insects will be attracted to the site and will benefit greatly by an interplanting of Sweet Alyssum, dill, or cilantro. Our Crimson and Dutch White Clover planted along pathways between rows is excellent for attracting beneficial insects too. Place shallow dishes of water with small protruding rocks in amongst the cucumbers for beneficial insects to stop and have a drink. They’ll lay more eggs, eat more pests, and be more effective if you provide for their needs right where the problem is at in the garden. Instead of thinking that the solution is to remove the problem, think about what can be done to aid nature in creating a balance.
Cutworms can be handpicked during the day if small pieces of wood or cardboard are laid out near the cucumbers for them to hide under. All the better to find them. Keeping chickens or ducks works too.
Fruit of Melothria scabra.
Cross a cucumber and a watermelon and what do you get? Probably nothing in real life, but the small cucurbit Melothria scabra fits that bill. This herbaceous climber in the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae) is grown for its tiny edible fruit that looks just like a miniature striped watermelon. The Spanish vernacular sandiita means just that – “little watermelon”, but it goes by many other names in both Spanish and the languages of the indigenous people who have eaten it since pre-Columbian times – including sandia de ratón, or mouse melon (maybe because the fruit is just the size for a mouse-sized picnic?). North of the border this unusual plant has been given many different common names by seed companies trying to promote it, including mouse melon, Mexican sour gherkin, Mexican sour cucumber and cucumelon.
The leaves of Melothria scabra look like regular cucumber leaves.
Native to Mexico and Central America, in the US it is an edible curiosity seen primarily in farmers markets and backyard gardens rather than in mainstream, commercial agriculture. The fruits are a tasty conversation piece when used whole in salads or other recipes. With its delicate foliage, it can be used as an edible ornamental in containers or other plantings.
The plants look very similar to regular cucumbers, with palmate leaves and curling tendrils on long vines, but just slightly smaller in size. A fast-growing tender tropical perennial, it is easily grown as an annual in temperate climates.
Small, solitary yellow flowers with five petals are produced in the leaf axils. This plant is unusual among cucurbits in that female flowers appear before male flowers, not the reverse like regular cucumbers.
The small yellow flowers are produced in the leaf axils.
These are followed by oblong, light-green fruits with darker striations about the size of a large grape. Most seed packets indicate 70-75 days to harvest, with the plants producing from mid-summer until first frost. The white, crisp interior flesh has a crunchy texture. The flavor is generally described as cucumber-like with a hint of sourness.
The small fruits follow the flowers, gradually enlarging in size.
The young fruits are best for eating raw.
They can be eaten raw, used in stir fries, or pickled like cucumbers. The young, tender fruits are best for eating raw, while the older fruits with more developed seeds are better for pickling.
Mouse melon is as easy to grow as regular cucumbers and does best in humus-rich, well-drained soil in full sun. Start the seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the average last frost and plant outside 9-12 inches apart at the same time regular cucumbers would be planted, or direct sow after last frost. Most seeds should germinate within 10 days.
Melothria scabra grows vigorously in full sun when temperatures are warm.
Be aware that the tender young stems and tendrils are easily damaged by cold or rough handling. Once the weather warms, this plant grows rampantly, quickly covering a small trellis or wire cage. Under ideal conditions the plants can grow up to 10 feet and produce abundant fruit. It is best to grow these plants vertically rather than on the ground as slugs will damage fruit in contact with the soil. It’s also easier to see and pick the fruits hanging down from a trellis. Unlike regular cucumbers, mouse melon doesn’t have any significant pests.
The small (1/8 inch long) seeds look like tiny cucumber seeds.
Seeds can be saved from year to year. Choose the ripest fruits – typically those that have naturally fallen from the plant – and allow to ripen a few weeks longer. Scoop out the seeds and allow to ferment in water for a few days. Remove the seeds that have dropped to the bottom and air dry for a couple of weeks on a screen in a cool, well-ventilated area. When brittle they can be stored in airtight containers for several years. Or if you’re feeling lazy just keep the whole fruits in a cool location above freezing, and plant the entire thing in the spring!
If grown as a perennial, bring indoors before first frost and keep the dormant rootstock almost completely dry in winter at temperatures above 50F. New vines will vigorously re-sprout the following spring.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison
How to grow sour gherkins:
1. Start seeds indoors in spring.
Gherkin seeds are best started indoors around the same time you would generally sow cucumber seeds in the ground – here in Kentucky (Zone 6) this tends to be in early to mid April. I suppose you could sow gherkins directly, too, but the seeds are so tiny and vines are so delicate at first that I wouldn’t recommend it.
As soon as your seeds germinate and the vines sprout up, give them a tiny post like a pencil or a small piece of bamboo to climb while they’re still potted up. This will help keep them from becoming a tangled mess.
2. Transplant outdoors after four to six weeks.
I don’t have a hard and fast rule about when to transplant these little guys. They can be a bit slow to get going, so I just wait until they look fairly robust and resilient enough to survive the outdoors – roughly four to six weeks.
Plant the vines one foot apart, and give them a much bigger and stronger trellis than you think they’ll need. On the farm where I work we let them sprawl across hog panels, which is a great way to do it if you have access to those. Otherwise some simple mesh trellis netting on a substantial supporting frame ought to do the trick.
Keep in mind that each individual vine can grow to ten feet in length, and once they really take off, the new vine growth will appear to be exponential. You will probably have to invest some time in training the vines to climb your trellis – again, they can become a tangled mess if left unchecked. Don’t underestimate how much these little plants can climb!
3. Harvest as soon as melons plump up.
Gherkins can be slow to progress at first, but at the height of their productive period you might have trouble keeping up with the daily harvests.
As the fruits develop (usually out of sight behind leaves), they will generally grow long and cylindrical up to nearly an inch before they begin to sort of plump up and widen out. As soon as they fatten up, it’s time to get picking.
The date to maturity is given as 75 days, which roughly translates to late June or early July for us here in Kentucky.
As with cucumbers, you want to be diligent about harvesting frequently and thoroughly to encourage the plants to continue producing. Plus, the longer you leave the melons on the vine, the more sour they become, and for some – myself included – they just become unpalatable after a certain point.
Your gherkin vines will produce a pretty large crop over the span of about a month or so in mid-summer, then drop off pretty drastically. They can potentially keep producing up until the first frost takes them out, but you may be better served by pulling them out in advance to make room for fall plantings.
…You are planning a fall garden, right?