Adorably teeny tiny Mexican Sour Gherkins (Melothria scabra) are starting to pop up all over the vines I’ve got growing at my community garden plot. The fruit in the picture is about half and inch or so and should be approximately 1-2″ when fully ripe however I am extremely impatient and picked a few for tasting. They taste very much like tiny, juicy cucumbers. Every description I have read says they have a surprisingly sour skin that makes them taste almost pre-pickled straight off the vine. Mine were very fresh flavored so I can only guess that the sourness will develop as the fruit matures.
The plant is a very ornamental and prolific vine with lots of pretty little leaves dotted by miniature yellow flowers. The tiny, ridiculously cute fruit are like Lilliputian watermelons, accounting for nicknames like “mouse melon” and Ã¢â‚¬Å“sandÃƒÂitaÃ¢â‚¬Â (Spanish for little watermelon).
I started mine this past spring from seeds purchased online via Seed Savers. I was a little bit concerned by the small size of the plants in comparison to other cucumbers at planting time but they took off immediately and quickly climbed up the trellis I made for my cucumbers using bamboo stakes and a plastic “chicken wire” leftover from another project. So far the plants are living up to their reputation as a pest and disease-resistant species — while some of the other curcubits are starting to show signs of powdery mildew the Mexican Sour Gherkins are entirely blemish and pest free. The plants are also much more drought tolerant than other cucumber-related plants making them a welcome addition to gardens like mine that can’t be tended to on a daily basis. I am not growing any on my rooftop garden this year but I would imagine that unlike many cucumber varieties that can be tricky in containers, their drought tolerant nature and small size would make this a good option in a medium-large sized container.
I made a quick trip to my community garden plot yesterday where several large zucchinis and cucumbers were quickly expanding into over-sized monster vegetables. I had been gone for 6 days and Davin was unable to get into the garden with a poorly copied key. There are more cucumbers on the way and little scalloped patty pan zucchinis are forming. It’s gonna be a good harvest year.
A prize winner has been chosen in the last contest. Kelly of Texas has won a copy of “Let’s Get Primitive: The Urban Girl’s Guide to Camping – by Heather Menicucci. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. There will be another soon.
I had big plans, HUGE PLANS, to use this post to write about exciting topics that were guaranteed to delight and amuse, but then we popped over to the community garden this evening to check on the first zucchini — which you can guess by now began as a simple task but quickly turned into a marathon work session. I have been waiting on eggshells for the first little miniature penis-like thing to be pollinated (incidentally this phallic-like thing is the female flower) by the pollen from a male flower and evolve into a full-grown zucchini. Before someone says it, yes I could have pollinated the female flower myself but I was not at the garden when the flower was open.
I don’t know what it is about that first zucchini that inspires such excitement although I suppose the first of just about anything worth harvesting from the garden is exciting. The first tomato, the first pinch of basil, the first onion, I can’t think of a single first in the garden that doesn’t inspire even the tiniest mental high five. Read aloud that makes me sound an awful lot like the dudes from “Gummo” as they glow with pride over a haul of dead cats. “I’m pretty smart if I do say so myself.”
Come to think of it I’d say that the other thing about that first zucchini is that waiting for it to grow becomes like a sort of death watch, a race between myself, an unknown mammalian critter who just loves to take a solitary bite from my zucchinis, and the developing fruit. Will I get to the zucchini BEFORE it is discovered by a mammalian critter (i.e. ground hog, opposum, cat) but AFTER the zucchini has reached a large enough size for picking? Who will win? Do I take a chance and leave it just one more day only to arrive the following afternoon to discover a ready-to-harvest fruit still on the vine but with a few scattered chunks and teeth marks cut into it? It’s all the thrill of gambling without any of the reward. First you get the zucchini, then you get the power. This has happened many times, and god knows I don’t enjoy it, but the disappointment of defeat is a lot more acceptable once a few good-sized zucchini’s have made it to the dinner table.
As you can see from the picture I did not take a chance and removed the zucchini even though it could have gone another day or two. But you know, it’s the first one of the season, it’s a reasonable size, and it’s edible.
I’m pretty smart if I do say so myself.
Special thanks to Davin Risk, the Official You Grow GirlÃ¢â€žÂ¢ Hand Model Alternate. The t-shirt should clear up any question as to our country of origin. Hint: It rhymes with Free Health Care.
I just returned from my community garden plot where I harvested a ton of onions, garlic, and borage. They were all overflowing in the plot and some needed to be sacrificed for the good of the garden and future harvests. The garlic had already formed a few cloves each. I left plenty more that will stay put until the fall when they are fully formed. I’m figuring on some sort of soup for the borage. Something that would benefit from a cucumbery flavor. The flowers are good in fizzy beverages. The onions will become tonight’s meal, French Onion Soup.
I also harvested my first cucumber (‘Parisian Pickling’), radish flowers, swiss chard and lots of herbs including basil (2 kinds), ‘Golden’ oregano, variegated marjoram, and garlic chives.
The valerian plants were COVERED in lady bug larvae! So exciting! Sorry no photos. I took my film camera with me.
Not a day has gone by over the last month where our meals haven’t been prepared with some percentage of harvest from the gardens. As the summer heats up that percentage is growing. Filling the fridge (and our bellies) with my own harvest is very satisfying. It just never grows old. And neither does bragging and gloating about it.
The heat has been oppressive around here over the past few days but since I am such a glass half-full person (uh huh) I choose to overlook the stink of my fellow bus passengers and the inability to breath air, and instead turn towards the bright side of intense heat: rapid plant growth and sun tea.
In theory, sun tea is supposed to be better than tea made using boiled water because the sun slowly, and gently infuses the water with all the goodness of the herbs instead of the bitter oils that are brought out with rapid brewing. But when the temperatures reach into the 30s and 40s C I could care less about all that jazz. Give me lazy! All the accomplishment with none of the effort. Sun tea is ridiculously easy to make, about as easy as making tea without the difficult chore of filling the kettle, turning the kettle on, waiting for the boil, pouring water. That is all much too HARD and who wants to be around boiling water at a time like this? Just get a glass jar, stuff it full of plant parts (I chose assorted mints), fill with water, and stick it in the sun. Go lay down with a wet towel on your head for a few hours. Pour and enjoy. Or add some ice and drink it cold.