Mexican gherkins, also known as cucamelons, look like tiny watermelons. Bite into one, though, and you'll be as surprised by the flavor as you are their size. Instead of being sweet, Mexican gherkins taste like lime-infused cucumbers. A distant relative of both cucumbers and melons, they hail from Mexico and Central America where they've long been a culinary staple. The easy-to-grow fruit is now gaining widespread popularity because it packs a healthy punch: Mexican gherkins are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, but low in calories.
The plant grows prolifically in raised beds, containers, or in-ground gardens, so long as you give it plenty of sun and TLC. With beautiful green foliage, tiny yellow flowers, and grape-sized fruit, Mexican gherkins make a great addition to your growing-season lineup.
Quick Guide to Growing Mexican Gherkins
Mexican gherkins like warm soil and warm-ish temps, so check your last frost date and wait until after it's passed to plant.
- Space the plants 18 inches apart in full sun.
- Plant in a nutrient-rich soil in raised beds and containers, or mix organic matter into the soil of in-ground gardens.
- Water immediately after planting, then 1 inch per week throughout the growing season.
- Mix a continuous-release fertilizer into the soil at planting time and replenish as directed.
- Spread a layer of mulch to help keep the soil moist and protect the plant's shallow roots.
- Add a trellis to support the vines, maximize garden space, and promote air flow.
- Mexican gherkins are ripe when plump and about an inch long. They're considered tastiest when harvested young.
- Eat Mexican gherkins fresh, use them in cooking, or preserve them by pickling.
- Store in the vegetable crisper drawer in the fridge.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Mexican gherkins grow in conditions similar to vining cucumbers. Growing them vertically promotes good air circulation, so plant them along a fence or add a trellis to support their vines. Get a jumpstart on growing Mexican gherkins—and to harvest more quickly—by planting strong, vigorous young plants from Bonnie Plants.
Mexican gherkins produce the best harvests in a location that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Their pretty yellow flowers require pollination to produce fruit, so consider growing them among bee-friendly plants, like marigolds, zinnias, or lavender, to attract pollinators.
Before planting, prepare your garden bed by adding compost or other organic material to the soil, especially if your soil is primarily clay or sand. Mexican gherkins prefer rich, well-drained soil with a slightly acidic pH, ranging from 6.1 to 6.8. To give your Mexican gherkins a great foundation, add Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All-Purpose In-Ground Soil to your garden bed. Mixing it into the existing soil helps ensure your plants have the nutrients they need to produce great harvests, while retaining moisture and keeping the soil well-drained.
Mexican gherkins also grow beautifully in raised beds and containers. When planting in pots, fill them with a lightweight, premium soil like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose Container Mix, which contains nutrient-rich compost. For raised beds, use Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Raised Bed Mix, which provides excellent drainage and important nutrients to promote strong root development.
Dig a hole large enough for the root ball, remove the plant from its pot, and gently loosen the root ball if it's tightly packed. Place the plant in the hole so that the top of the root ball is level with the soil line. Fill the hole with the soil and press down firmly. Water the plant thoroughly to settle it in, and then give it about an inch of water per week throughout the growing season. (If the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, it's time to water your plant. )
If you're growing several Mexican gherkin plants, space them about 18 inches apart for good air circulation. Add a trellis or train the vines to grow along a fence. Mexican gherkin plants have shallow roots, so no matter where you grow them, add a layer of mulch around the plant to help deter weeds and keep the soil moist longer.
In garden beds, use Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules throughout the summer (check the label for timing), which feeds plants continuously for up to 6 weeks. Make sure you pull back the mulch before you mix the plant food into the top few inches of soil around the base of the plant. Replace the mulch and water well. For container gardens, use Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition to help replenish nutrients lost from the frequent watering containers require. Always follow the label directions.
Mexican gherkins grow easily and are fairly low-maintenance. The vines can reach more than 4 feet long, so trellising them helps save garden space. The added support also prevents the plant's leaves from resting on the ground and encountering soil-borne diseases, plus harvesting the fruit is much easier. Water at the base of the plant, or use drip irrigation, to keep soil from splashing onto the leaves, helping the plant stay in top form.
Like cucumbers, Mexican gherkins can suffer from powdery mildew, but good air circulation and careful watering can help prevent that. The plant is relatively pest-resistant—aphids are the most common problem. A strong spray of water often takes care of those, but for a serious infestation, consider using insecticidal soap.
Make sure to plant Mexican gherkins after the danger of frost passes in spring. To extend your harvest time in fall, a low tunnel or row cover may give your plants some protection from early cold spells.
Harvest and Storage
Harvesting Mexican gherkins is easy, but they do play a bit of hide and seek. The pretty foliage often covers the fruit, so you'll have to move it aside to find and harvest the fruit. Make sure it's plump, and about an inch long—the size of a grape. Use garden snips or scissors when harvesting to avoid damaging the vine. Check the plant daily for fruit and harvest frequently to keep it productive. Mexican gherkins typically mature in 60 days. Young fruits are the tastiest—they become sour the longer they remain on the vine.
Mexican gherkins can stay crisp for up to 2 weeks if stored in the refrigerator's vegetable drawer. Pickling Mexican cucumbers is the most popular method of preserving the fruit.
How to Use Mexican Gherkins
While Mexican gherkins make a delicious snack, they're also healthy. The cucumber-citrus flavor makes it easy to enjoy them—add them to salads, chop for a flavorful salsa, use in stir-fries, or pickle them to enjoy later. One of the most popular ways to eat them, though, is by the handful, fresh from the garden. And, as this is a difficult fruit to find at the grocery store, growing your own Mexican gherkins is the way to go!