Rare Exotic Plants For The Backyard Garden – Part 3 – Cucumbers

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:

Cucamelons

Grape sized cucamelons

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.

 

The Flavor?

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 cucumbersgerminate, 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:

Cucamelon seeds - Zellajake Farm and GardenCucamelon seeds - Garden Seeds Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zellajake Farm and Garden – sells heirloom seeds and they have great customer service.

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: 

Lemon Cucumbers

Ripe lemon cucumber.

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…

Great seed suppliers for lemon cucumbers:

Lemon cucumber seeds - PlenTreeLemon cucumber seeds - Isla Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PlenTree – has organic seeds and they ship internationally.

Isla Garden – touts their seeds as “premium” and they are a good quality supplier.

 

Lastly:

Serpent Cucumbers

A snake representing serpent cucumbers.

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.Hearing cricket chirping since no one knows a serpent cucumber farmer.

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:

Serpent cucumber seeds - Biotom49Serpent cucumber seeds - Eden BrosSerpent cucumber seeds - Stonysoil Seed Company

 

 

 

 

 

Biotom49 – sells these serpent cucumber seeds like they were going out of style!

Eden Bros – offers heirloom, open pollinated Armenian cucumber seeds.

Stonysoil Seed Company – also has heirloom, open pollinated painted serpent cucumber seeds.

 

A Question:

What did the cucumber say to the tomato?

The Answer:

“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.

Jim, the Lifelong Gardener

jim@perfect-vegetable-garden.com

14 thoughts on “Rare Exotic Plants For The Backyard Garden – Part 3 – Cucumbers

  1. Michel Reply

    How cute and they do look like baby watermelons. I have never seen these before, but will definitely look out for them now that I know what they are.

    The lemon cucumbers don’t even resemble a cucumber in looks, so I wonder how they even got classified as cucumbers.

    The serpent cucumber could make an interesting addition to one’s garden, and even scare some intruders away.

    Thank you for this post, it was most informative, even though I hadn’t heard of any of these types of cucumbers before.

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Michel,

      The lemon cucumbers look like lemons but, they taste like cucumbers.  I guess that is why they are classified as cucumbers.

      If grown in such a way that they can coil a bit, those snake cucumbers will tend to scare a few garden visitors and stop them in their tracks.  I’ve seen it happen.

      Glad you enjoyed the article!

      Jim

  2. Ty Reply

    To be honest, I’ve never heard of any of these plants before, which obviously explains why the title is rare and exotic plants.

    If i had to try any one of these it would likely be the cucamelon. Though I’m wondering if I would even like any of these since I don’t like cucumbers whatsoever, unless they are drowned in vinegar apparently.

    • Jim Reply

      All I can say, Ty, is the reason you don’t like cucumbers is that you probably have only eaten store-bought varieties.  Personally, I can’t stand putting any cucumber in my mouth that came from the grocery produce section.  But, cucumbers grown in a home backyard garden are different animals altogether.  I love them!

      Try some homegrown cucumbers!  I’m sure that you’ll change your views quickly!

      Jim

  3. Louis Reply

    I was going to say the cucamelon is a baby watermelon. The name sandiita really fits the bill.

    I kept wondering how this cucamelon tastes, and I’m very happy to know that it has a sour but edible flavor. I don’t mind the sour taste, and I would love to have it in my garden.

    Thanks for this post, now I’d love to grow some cucamelons.

  4. tunde33 Reply

    The cucumber is very good and we need to cultivate the habit of eating it. These cucumbers are of various sizes and varieties from what I have read here and you have given me more courage to be a cucumber farmer even though I have little knowledge of growing them.

    But with this informative article, I think am good to go now.  And, I hope to grow some of these various types of rare cucumbers.  I just need to know the best time to plant them.

  5. Cheri Reply

    Well now, Jim, you’ve created quite an issue for me. I’m currently planning the veggies we’ll grow in our “starter garden” (first garden bed on property we just cleared and started homesteading last year in the TN mountains), and I was NOT going to include cucumbers this time because our space will be rather limited. But now I’m thinking I’ve really got try those Lemon Cucumbers sooner rather than later! The cucamelons are adorable (can a cuke be adorable?!), but I think the flavor you describe of the lemon cucumbers is more appealing to me. The serpent cucumbers are absolutely fascinating, but they will have to wait until we’ve expanded our garden and have more room because, if I grow those, I’m definitely going to want to let them coil up and look all snake-like. How fun! (Don’t suppose they offer the bonus of looking enough like snakes to scare away veggie-munching critters, do they?!). I have to admit “cucumber” has never once come to mind when thinking about rare, exotic plants for my backyard garden…I truly had no idea! I’ve never had a space to explore vegetable gardening like I do now, so I’ve got all kinds of fun learning and tasting experiences ahead of me. Your website is a fabulous resource that I’ll be bookmarking for reference. I know nothing about canning, either, other than it will have to be part of my future once I “get growing,” so I will be checking out your wife’s guidance on that to help me along. I have so much to learn, so much to grow…and so much gratitude for people like you who share your gardening knowledge with the rest of us. 

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Cheri,

      I’m glad you enjoyed my rare exotic cucumber plants.  They do make an extraordinary addition to any garden – both for flavor and for conversation starters.

      Good luck with your gardening!  Let me know how it goes!

      Jim

  6. Kenechi Reply

    These various kinds of cucumbers are not common and I am reading about them for the very first time. And, it’s interesting.

    I have only recently met a friend who said he needed to know where to get the best seeds for snake cucumbers and I was wondering what he meant as by “snake cucumber”. Now I can confidently tell him that I know where he could get the snake cucumber seeds.

  7. LeNard Simmons Reply

    Thank you, for sharing this post on rare exotic plants I can grow in my backyard. Planting season is here and I wanted to add some unique veggies to the garden this year.

    I didn’t know that some varieties of cucumbers were exotic plants and could grow to be 10 feet, plus are resistant to many elements such as drought.

    Cucamelons do remind me of watermelons.

    The Lemon Cucumbers are great for making Cucumber Lemon Water, which is good to drink all year around because of its health benefit. And they taste good in salads.

    Thank you for sharing, I have an idea which way I want to go.

    • Jim Reply

      Hi LeNard,

      These are some very unique cucumbers that can grow prolifically in most gardens.

      But, lemon cucumbers don’t taste like lemons – it’s only their name.  They still are just cucumbers.  If you want “lemony” tasting water, use lemons.  And, just put the lemon cucumbers in your salads.

      Jim

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