The Next Group Of Rare Exotic Plants Is…
This third installment of rare exotic plants is all about cucumbers. Doesn’t sound too “rare and exotic”, does it? Well press on and you will soon see just how strange cucumbers can get!
If you like crazy looking beans, you’ll like Rare Exotic Plants For The Backyard Garden – Part 1 – Beans.
And, you’ll find some odd looking berries in Rare Exotic Plants For The Backyard Garden – Part 2 – Berries.
But, here, we are delving into the uncanny and amazing world of bizarre cucumbers. By the way, these can pretty much be grown in every hardiness zone from 3 on up to 12.
Let’s Start With:
Isn’t this a teeny weeny watermelon? It sure looks like one, doesn’t it? Matter of fact, in Mexico and Central America, where it is indigenous, it is called, “sandiita” – or “little watermelon.”
These grape-sized mini-melons have vines that need to be trellised because they have the potential to grow 10 feet long. They are self pollinating, drought resistant, and pest-resistant – which puts them head and shoulders above the normal garden variety cucumbers that are commonly grown in backyard gardens.
Cucamelons taste just like slightly sour cucumbers. Some say that this tangy taste can be duplicated by soaking regular cucumbers in lime juice. And, these diminutive orbs are great for salad additives and pickling. The skin is so thin that there is no need to peel them.
Try a martini and add a cucamelon instead of an olive. Mix together some cucamelons and hot or mild peppers – add some olive oil and some garlic salt for a great side dish.
Typical time-to-harvest is a few days short of 3 months after planting. Grow them just like your regular cucumbers – germinate, transplant, and harden off these gems to get a jump start on the growing process. Keep them fed – every few weeks add some 10-10-10 fertilizer – until the flower and fruiting stages – then, change to 0-0-60 fertilizer. Plus, make sure they have enough water – at least an inch per week.
Cucamelons grow best in a garden plot on a trellis – but, they are “container friendly”, too, as long as you have a way to support the vines as they grow. Pick the fruit when they are the size of a grape – or, your thumb – and firm.
The unique characteristic of these plants is that their roots are thickened – much like some flowers. Since most seeds are “heirlooms”, these roots can be dug up – kept cool and dry over the winter – and, be re-planted in the spring. The upside to this technique is a bumper crop next planting season that will bear much more produce than freshly planted seedlings.
Where To Buy?
Cucamelon seeds are very hard to find. But, here are some excellent places to get them:
Garden Seeds Market – uses a very unique 4-stage quality control process to insure the best and highest germination percentage seeds.
Next In Line Is:
Harvest these round or elliptical lemon cucumbers when they are between 2 and 3 inches in diameter –a little smaller than a baseball. As the fruit ripens on the vines, the color will change from a lemon yellow to a golden yellow. They get their name due to their color – but, they don’t taste like lemons.
The light green inner meat of this cool and crisp textured cuke is mildly sweet. There is no bitter flavor. They are great in all types of veggie salads and they work well as pickles, too. Add them to some sliced tomatoes, yellow squash, and whatever else you like – throw in a little olive oil – and sprinkle generously with some mozzarella cheese for a salad made in heaven!
Lemon cucumbers are famous in India where they are eaten raw – or, used to make chutney – or, added to cold soups. They are viewed as summertime veggies that cool folks down in the sweltering summer heat.
Grow these golden treasures just like any cucumbers. Normally, the produce is ready for picking in less than 60 days.
If you see any aphids, spider mites, or squash beetles taking residence on the plants, spray them with a generous dose of Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer.
Where To Find The Seeds…
A great seed supplier for lemon cucumbers:
Isla Garden – touts their seeds as “premium” and they are a good quality supplier.
The serpent cucumber – or snake melon – or Armenian cucumber – or “yard long cucumber” – grows 3 feet (or a “yard”) long – curving in such a way to look just like – a snake! Why else would it be called a “serpent” cucumber?
These snakey veggies have ribbed ridges – to some extent – with darker green stripes – and a little fuzz on the skin. The skin is exceptionally thin – so, no need to peel them. The taste is very much like the cool, crisp, mildly flavored, regular cucumbers that we normally grow in our gardens – and they look like ordinary cucumbers on the inside.
But, besides being the same cucumber taste that we are used to – aren’t they also great a conversation piece? Who do you know that has ever grown them? Anyone? I’m waiting. (crickets chirping…)
Grow theses snake cukes just like regular cukes and once they are a foot long, start harvesting them. The shorter ones are tenderer. If you like them a little firmer, let ’em coil around the vines for another couple of feet before plucking them off. Trellis them to give the fruits more room to grow and, if you want them to grow straighter.
Or, just let them slither along the ground – and watch them slowly coil and interweave as they grow. A bit creepy this way, huh? But, what a sight to see!
Best Seed Are From:
Though it is difficult to find good serpent cucumber seeds, here are some outstanding sources:
Biotom49 – sells these serpent cucumber seeds like they were going out of style!
Stonysoil Seed Company – also has heirloom, open pollinated painted serpent cucumber seeds.
What did the cucumber say to the tomato?
“It looks like you could have used some sunscreen! Don’t cha think?”
Comments and emails are welcome. Don’t forget to choose one or the other and contact me with your thoughts.