Do My Cucamelons Look Big In This?

This will be my fifth year growing cucamelons and the first year I’ve successfully overwintered them. Heralded as an exciting addition to cocktails by James Wong in 2012, I’ve spoken to many people who have grown cucamelons only to be disappointed with either the taste or harvest of these diminutive fruits. I am prepared to accept that for some (misguided!) individuals the fresh, citrusy sweetness of a ripe cucamelon isn’t an instant hit. Perhaps they aren’t big fans of cucumbers, limes or watermelons either, as the cucamelon combines snatches of all these favours within its own zingy freshness. What I won’t accept, is that cucamelons are dry, chewy, bland or sour. All these complaints suggest one thing – that the offending fruit has been harvested too late.

Cucamelons need careful watching – miss the couple of days in which the fruits attain their optimum flavour and texture, and you’ll always believe they aren’t worth the hype. In the bustle of modern life this window can easily be missed and cucamelons don’t help with their trailing habit, as the tiny fruits are often hidden behind the leaves of other plants, only to be discovered several days later well on their way to winning the ‘grow a giant cucamelon competition’ at the expense of their taste. The ideal size is about equal to a grape and the colour should be green with dark stripes. If the fruits grow any bigger and turn a paler green then the skins become tough and the juice rather insipid. I generally advise first-time cucamelon growers to try tasting a fruit when it is pea-sized. Then, when fruits are harvested a few days later, if they don’t taste as sweet and delicious as the first tiny fruit, they should be harvested earlier next time.


I found this one hiding at the back…

The other issue with cucamelons can be their tendency to have years when fruiting is reduced. I’ve had some bumper years where the vines fruit continuously throughout the summer and some where fruiting has been rather disappointing. I grow four pots in the greenhouse trained on wires around the top edge, although there are always side-shoots escaping to make friends with the tomatoes, chillies, lemongrass and other greenhouse residents. I’ve also tried them outside with some success (they grow well up supports but tend to fruit a little less than in the greenhouse). This year I fed and watered the greenhouse crops more and also made sure the door was left open to encourage pollinators in as flowers aren’t self-fertile and the crop was good. I suspect hand pollination might also increase yields, but I’ve not felt the need to attempt this yet.

I’ve also tried over-wintering cucamelons several times without success. A few years ago I attended a talk by James Wong at the Edible Garden Show where he mentioned that they could be over-wintered. Cucamelons produce long, tuberous roots which can supposedly be stored, like dahlia tubers, in a cool dry place over-winter. When I asked him at the end of the talk, James said he hadn’t tried it but this was the recommended way to store them. So the next winter I tried, but the tubers rotted in storage. The following year I left them in pots of compost in the greenhouse along with my dahlias. This was also unsuccessful (although the dahlias were fine.) I even found a tuber one spring in the vegetable bed which looked dormant but healthy. I potted it up, but it spent the whole summer in the pot without ever awakening.

This winter I thought I’d give it one last try before giving up on over-wintering altogether. Keeping the plants on the dry side in their pots in a cool spot indoors seems to have done the trick. I cut the vines back to about 10cm before bringing them in. One died back completely and the other has retained its vine but not grown further. Now both are showing some new growth and I do believe I’ve cracked it! Hopefully the over-wintered plants will crop earlier and more heavily than my seed sown plants – I’ll let you know how it goes.

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It’s alive!!

Raw cucamelons add a tangy note of sharpness to salads without being sour. I think this is by far the best way to appreciate their flavour. My kids love them and they are a superb fruit for small fingers to harvest. One year we also pickled our cucamelons. They were good on sandwiches and burgers, but lost the sweet/sharp combination which is their defining feature. I haven’t tried them in cocktails, but they’re good in Pimms with strawberries and mint. Go on, you know it makes sense  🙂

So if you want to experience the delight of a fresh, juicy cucamelon it’s important to ensure good pollination. Then, once you have your harvested crop in your hand, ask yourself this question: ‘Do my cucamelons look big in this?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, then you’ve left it too late…


One or two of my crop here are on the large size. The smaller ones are an ideal size.

If you’d like to try growing these tiny taste bombs this year they are easy to raise from seed and are now available as plug plants. When I started growing cucamelons, seed wasn’t that readily available, but now it can be sourced from the following suppliers and many more…

Suttons Seeds (where I bought my first seeds, available as seeds or plug plants), Pennard Plants (also offers a great range of other unusual fruit/veg seeds and edible perennials), Chiltern Seeds (with a wide range of heritage and heirloom vegetables too) and Jungle Seeds).

Sow seeds indoors from the end of February until April and they will be ready to plant out in the greenhouse or the garden/allotment at the end of May. If you are planting them outside, consider slug protection as one small munch at the base of the vine can undo weeks of careful growing.

Maybe you disagree completely with my cucamelon favouritism? Have you experienced different problems from the ones I’ve discussed or do you find the taste too sour even in small fruits? Or perhaps cucamelons crop well for you and you’ve got alternative ways of using them in recipes? If so, I’d love to hear from you, so please do leave me a comment…

If you’d like to read about other more unusual crops, you could try:

You can also follow the progress of my overwintered cucamelons on the blog by subscribing below…

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28 thoughts on “Do My Cucamelons Look Big In This?

  1. Catherine says:

    Yours is the first write-up on cucamelons which has remotely tempted me to try growing them! I’m new to growing, last year being my first, but as by and large lots of things were successful, I’m expanding the range this year and I do have a greenhouse…….!

    • Ditsy says:

      Can someone help me. We’ve grown these and the problem is they haven’t gone green they are yellow and a size of a small yellow melon. Do we harvest now or leave them to see what happens. Thanks for reading this

      • dogwooddays says:

        Hiya, well done for getting your cucamelon plants producing fruit, but sounds like they’ve got far too big. They should be the size of a pea or very slightly bigger when you harvest – this will have been when they were green. After that they get yellow and tough and the taste changes from a sweet melony cucumber zing to soggy sourness. I think the best thing you could do is to remove the fruits so the plant will start producing again, give it some tomato feed and keep looking for the tiny, delicious fruit. Hope it goes well ☺

    • Susan Carrington says:

      My cucamelons are smaller and don’t have stripes. I wonder if this is another variety and whether it’s edible?

  2. The Cynical Gardener says:

    I grew Cucamelons for the first time 2 years ago and had a very good crop, I liked the taste as it was very pleasing on a hot day.

    I grew them again last year and was quite disappointed in the yield and taste. I had very few fruits. Those that I did get tasted weird.

    Now I’m wondering if perhaps they were a little over mature, however I’m using my cucamelon space this year for gherkins.

  3. andyroberts says:

    Congratulations on the overwintering success! I’ve got one of the tubers in a pot in the garage but it feels soft and squishy so presumably not viable. I saved seeds though, so will grow each year as I love them to eat straight off the vine.

    • dogwooddays says:

      Thanks Andy. I was so pleased after 3 years of trying. I think they don’t respond well to being cold or dormant and at all damp. Just keeping them cool and on the edge of dormant seems to have worked though ☺

  4. Grace | eTilth says:

    I’m sure I would be on vacation on the one day those would be ripe. Looking forward to reading more about your garden! Thanks to the Anxious Gardener for his post so I could learn about yours.

    • dogwooddays says:

      Thanks Grace – glad you found me. The Anxious Gardener wrote a really generous post. Luckily cucamelons crop over the whole summer, so even if you missed a few while you were away, you could catch up on the next batch when you returned! ☺ Hope you carry on enjoying the blog. All the best, Nic

  5. debsrandomwritings says:

    Hi Nic, I have seen these cute little fruits on screen only, never for real. They remind me of mini watermelons. The taste sounds nice, but then I quite fancy a citrusy cucumber. And if the children love them, that is one more fruit to add to their plate.

    Thank you for linking up with the #MMBC.


    • dogwooddays says:

      Hi Jayne, thanks for stopping by. Great plan – hope it does well. Let me know how you get on and if you need any advice. Best of luck for tiny tasty harvests later this year ☺

  6. Kate says:

    Hi. I am trying these for the first time and could use some help. I planted 24 seeds almost a month ago in my grow tent. One has germinated. I’m wondering how long it takes to get it’s first set of true leaves?

    • dogwooddays says:

      Hi Kate – is your grow tent outside – are you in the UK? They would normally be sown indoors initially in the UK and then moved outside or into unheated greenhouses after the frosts, so this perhaps explains your poor rate of germination. True leaves would normally appear fairly quickly but again cold temperatures might well be inhibiting growth. Do you have any seeds left? If so, I’d sow some on a warm windowsill (it’s not too late to sow this month or even into April) and see if you have better germination rates and quicker growth. You could also try pricking out the seedling when it gets its first true leaves and bringing it indoors for a couple of months to speed up and help its development. Hope that helps, Nic

  7. Steven says:


    My cucamelin leaves are all dying as soon as the fruit started showing. Any idea what’s going on? Am I over watering ? Underwatering? Maybe it’s natural.

    • dogwooddays says:

      Hi, what a shame – doesn’t sound normal to me. They like to be moist but not waterlogged. Perhaps the leaves are scorching – is it in direct sunlight in a hot place? The conditions this year have been unusual if you’re in the UK, but none seem to be doing well so far in a shared greenhouse and fruit are just appearing. Good luck – hope you get healthy fruit.

  8. Jaco Schoeman says:

    Thank you for the great article. This is the first time I started growing cuca’s and I am very pleased to state mine is growing very well, producing fruit at every leaf section. I have only three plants but I would like to plant more. My 3 questions to you are; whether you have found that greenhouse growing extends the fruiting period? Do you think they can be “tricked” in fruiting all year round in perfect greenhouse conditions? And lastly, what have you found is the fruiting period for them (I read somewhere else they fruit up to 5 months…)

    • dogwooddays says:

      Hi Jaco, thanks for your comment. I’m not sure where you’re based, but here in the UK with an unheated greenhouse my cucamelons wither at the first sign of frost. I have managed to overwinter the tubers, but not overwinter the plants themselves, although in the house this might be possible. I have also grown cucamelons outside and the greenhouse grown plants usually crop earlier and more heavily, although sometimes yields are poor and this may be due to pollinators not getting in in sufficient numbers which isn’t a problem outside. Hope that helps. If you manage to overwinter in a heated greenhouse I’d be interested to hear about it – good luck! 🙂

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