// Twitter Cards // Prexisting Head The Biologist Is In: Novel Vegetable : Melothria scabra

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Novel Vegetable : Melothria scabra

The Melothria scabra (mouse-melon; Mexican sour-gherkin; cucamelon) produces small edible fruits which supposedly taste reminiscent of a slightly sour cucumber.

In 2014, a friend gave me two baby plants that were supposed to be M. scabra. When the plants were put out into the sun, they quickly lost their leaves from sun-burn. However, they bounced back and grew new ones very quickly.

Small yellow flowers, typical for the genus, appeared later in the season. Eventually several tiny fruits appeared. The fruits were spiny and didn't have the stripes that make M. scabra fruit look like little watermelons. I figured they would mature into the form I was expecting. The fruits proceeded to grow to about an inch long, but they never changed their appearance. After puzzling over their identity for a while, I came across a random forum image that included a fruit like those my plant had produced. From there, I was able to identify the plant as Cucumis anguria (West Indian Gherkin) instead of M. scabra. Whoops.

I suppose the title to this post was a little misleading.
Sorry about that, but one can't present a mystery by revealing the answer in the title.

The fruit of C. angueria were interesting, even if not what I was looking for. I think I'll try growing them again so maybe I can get enough fruit to try cooking a dish with them. I still want to grow M. scabra, so I ordered seeds from another source. Maybe they'll be some new and interesting mystery plant instead. I wouldn't be too upset if they did.

References & Notes:
  1. Cucumis anguria (West Indian Gherkin; Maxixe)
  2. Melothria scabra (Mexican Sour Gherkin; Mouse-Melon; Cucamelon)
    • Unripe fruit are edible, with a sour-cucumber taste. Ripe fruit are edible, with a sweeter taste.
  3. Melothria pendula (creeping cucumber; Guadalupe cucumber)
    • Unripe (green) fruit are edible, with a sour-cucumber taste. Ripe (black) fruit are sweet, but reported to be a strong purgative.