Advanced Search Filters

Plant Type
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
Sunset Zone
Function
Sun Exposure
Soil Moisture
Water Requirement

MELOTHRIA scabra

Image of Melothria scabra

Family

Cucurbitaceae

Botanical Name

MELOTHRIA scabra

Plant Common Name

Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber, Mouse Melon

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Widely grown and eaten across Central America before the arrive of Christopher Columbus, mouse melons are an intriguing New World "cucumber" with miniature, tasty and ornamental fruits. They are small, 1-inch (2.5 cm) ovals: about the size of pigeon eggs, cherry tomatoes or American quarter coins. The fruit skin is deep green and silvery-green mottled, resembling Liliputian-size watermelons. Perfect for fresh snacking, adding to salads or pickling, mouse melons have a sweet cucumber-like taste that then becomes rather pleasantly lemon-sour in aftertaste. For that reason, this plant is also referred to as the Mexican sour gherkin.

The plants are frost-tender and need warm soil and temperatures. About 60 to 70 days after sowing seeds, the little mouse melons are ready to harvest. If the copious number of fruits are hard to the touch, they are best used for pickling. But once the skin is a little soft, pick them for fresh eating. Or, promptly gather them as they naturally drop from the vines, which is an easy indicator the fruits are ready to eat.

Mouse melons are annual vines that prosper in the warmth and sunshine of summer. They have small, pointy lobed leaves (resembling ivy foliage) that are green and scratchy to the touch. When mature the vines produce tiny yellow flowers that are either male or female. Pollen-bearing male flowers are produced first, followed by the fruit-bearing female flowers. The female flowers are recognizable with close inspection because of the bulbous ovaries at their bases.

Grow these vines in full sun and fertile, evenly moist, perfectly drained garden loam. After the threat of frost passes, sow the seeds directly in the ground. If transplanting container-grown plants, take care to not damage their tender white roots unless they are root-bound. Root-bound plants can be saved only if their roots are gently teased apart before planting. Be sure to harvest fruits regularly, so vines will continue to flower and produce fruit.

The Mexican sour gherkin cucumber is best trained on a trellis or cage but it's successful even if allowed to ramble freely across the ground. Fresh or pickled, the mouse melons are a tasty and exciting vegetable, and they are as easy to grow. What a perfect addition to a children's garden!

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 2

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Vegetable

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    5"-10" / 12.7cm - 25.4cm

  • Width

    6'-14' / 1.8m - 4.3m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer, Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Mexico, Central America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Vining/Climbing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Light Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Yellow Green, Light Green, Silver

  • Fruit Color Modifier

    Striped/Striated, Spotted/Mottled

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Light Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Vine

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes