Meet the Hairy Horticulturist—and the Tiny Cucamelon

The cucamelon is an itty bitty vegetable that looks like a melon and tastes like a zesty cucumber. We get the facts from an avid grower we found on Instagram.

by Phillip MlynarOctober 1, 2019

Seasonal produce gets no cuter than the cucamelon. These adorably dinky vegetables have been popping up during the past month at farmers markets, where they’re also sold as mouse melons or Mexican sour gherkins.

Looking like a miniature oval melon with watermelon markings, cucamelons pack a fresh, zesty taste and work great in salads, as a snack, or even sprucing up a gin and tonic.

Cucamelons have also recently charmed Sam Corfield, a farmer based in Cornwall in the United Kingdom who got his start working at the famous Lost Gardens of Heligan. Corfield runs an Instagram account under the fantastic handle of The Hairy Horticulturist. It’s packed with cucamelon photos and information—so we asked him about the origins of the produce, the best ways to incorporate it in recipes and his tips for growing cucamelons at home.

Where Do Cucamelons Come From?

“Cucamelons are apparently from Mexico,” says Corfield. “Although a Mexican lady once told me she had never seen them in her life! But I think they can be found across South America.” He adds that cucamelons are a “pretty hardy” vegetable, one that’s happy in high heat conditions with minimal watering.

What Do Cucamelons Taste Like?

The name cucamelon isn’t just a cutesy portmanteau—it’s also a solid description of the taste when you pop one in your mouth and crunch into it.

“They mainly taste like a crisp cucumber with a sharp citrus taste,” describes Corfield, who says that in some cases people pick up slight bitter notes that can place the cucamelon in the “love them or hate them” category.

Meet the Hairy Horticulturist

The backstory to Corfield’s Hairy Horticulturist persona is simple: “I’ve got a beard, and it sounded catchy! If people remember it, then it means they’re thinking and talking about growing produce.”

Summing up his mission, Corfield says, “Helping people grow with a hint of humor is what I’m here for.”

What Can You Do With Cucamelons?

Cucamelons are perfect to snack on throughout the day—their high yield also means you needn’t hold back on munching through a punnet. They work great sliced in half and added to a salad, will pep up stir fries and are a cinch to pickle. You can also turn cucamelons into a bright salsa.

Beyond cooking with cucamelons, Corfield also recommends “slicing the little guys in half and popping them into a gin.” Cheers to that.

Tips on Growing Cucamelons

If you want to try growing cucamelons yourself, Corfield recommends using a “dry arid mix of soil” and says “indoor growing provides huge yields, but I also grow outdoors [in the U.K.] with great success.”

Corfield says the cucamelon is an adventurous crop: “Give them space to climb! Don’t be afraid to let them go everywhere—I’ve had them in amongst tomatoes before.”

From Cucamelons to Mini Melons

Beyond harvesting cucamelons, Corfield says he has lately become an “avid melon grower and sniffer.” His current specialty is “a small cantaloupe type called Minnesota Midget, which is sweet, small and fits perfectly as individual servings on a plate.

“If you’re wondering about the melon sniffing,” he adds, “it’s the best way to check for ripeness, and not a strange fetish.”

You can follow The Hairy Horticulturist at his Instagram account.