Melotria is an exotic plant that arouses interest among gardeners-experimenters. This outlandish culture is able to grow under the most adverse conditions, and at the same time has a unique yield. We learn what kind of plant it is, how to plant and grow it, and what to do with its fruits.
Melotria gives the first fruits two weeks after transplanting
Melotria rafts taste like sour cucumber
Cucumbers "Melotria" can be eaten not only raw in the summer, but also pickled for the winter
What is this plant?
Rough Melotria (Melothria scabra) belongs to the genus Melotria of the Pumpkin family. This is a perennial vine grown for miniature fruits, similar to ordinary cucumbers to taste. The plant is not known to all gardeners, but it has many "folk" names - climbing creeper is often called mouse watermelon, sour gherkin, Mexican cucumber.
The plant is very similar to ordinary cucumbers, but the leaves, flowers and fruits have slight differences. A brief botanical description of "mouse melon":
- Leaves. The leaves are similar in shape to cucumber, but they are slightly smaller in size. The surface of the leaves is rough - that is why the word "rough" is present in the name of the plant. The leaves are three-segmented, triangular, all segments pointed.
- Fruit. Small, grow up to 4 cm in length. Collect them in an immature state, when their length reaches 2 cm. The surface of the fruit is spotty-striped, so they look like miniature watermelons. The fruits are edible, their taste combines notes of cucumber with a sour taste of melon peels.
- Tubers. Reminiscent of the shape of sweet potato tubers. Weight - up to 400 g. Edible, taste - a mixture of radishes with cucumber.
- Mustache. Thanks to a long and tenacious mustache, the plant is attached to any supports. For weaving set pergolas, trellises - the plant completely braids them.
- Flowers. In June, the plant blooms. The flowers are bright yellow, bisexual. Females bloom one at a time, males are collected in inflorescences. The flowers have a pleasant unobtrusive odor that attracts pollinating insects.
The plant is actively growing - its vertical shoots grow up, clinging to the supports. In length reach 3 m. Lateral shoots, lying on the ground, are able to reliably take root.
The peculiarity of melotria is that female flowers bloom earlier than male ones.
For the first time, the French botanist W.V. described melotria in the 19th century. Noden. The classification of the plant made by him, modern botanists questioned - closely related species were found in Africa, and differences between lianas are still not identified.
Some sources claim that the birthplace of melotria is equatorial Africa. Others attribute the liana to a connection with central America, and they are right - that is where the liana comes from. Melotria has nothing to do with Africa, and the "African cucumber" is nothing more than another "popular" name, which has no scientific background. In fact, the birthplace of this unusual plant is the Central American region.
In central America, melotria is perceived as weedy vegetation. In fact, it is such and is - a weed that does not require any care, and is able to tolerate various weather troubles. The main condition is heat, melotria can grow in any regions of Russia, but it does not tolerate cold. In the central regions and to the north, they grow it only in seedlings.
In the homeland, melotria is a perennial. With us, it becomes an annual, as it freezes in winter. In the tropics there are no subzero temperatures, in Russia even in the southern regions, it falls below zero.
In Mexico, melotria manifests itself as an aggressive weed - it propagates not only by seeds, but also by tubers. It is extremely difficult to lime it; if it starts up, then it will germinate again next year. In Russia, with its winters, such problems do not arise.
Fruiting and Yield
Fruiting occurs quickly. Two weeks after transplanting, you can see the first “watermelon”. Flowering and fruiting occurs in the month of June. The plant gives a lot of fruits - they are formed in each node, and fruiting is stretched over time. If you take care of melotria, then it will bear fruit until frost. Its yield reaches 5 kg per bush.
We offer you to watch a video in which gardeners share their impressions of the unpretentiousness of Melotria.
Rough Melotria varieties
Melotria has long been domesticated, but very few varieties are bred. All varieties have fruits about 3 cm long; all have almost the same color, with slight deviations. In the West, seed trading firms do not indicate melotria varieties. But from Russia there are several varieties of rough "Mexican cucumber", we consider the most famous.
This variety is in appearance no different from Melothria scabra. Therefore, doubts arise whether the originator is selling a variety other than a wild plant. Description and agricultural technology "Hummingbird" correspond to the usual Melotria rough. Of all the varieties, only Hummingbird is registered in the State Register.
Stores often generally offer melotria without specifying the variety. At the same time on anonymous bags write a description that belongs to the Hummingbird:
- shoot length - 3 m;
- average productivity - 3-3.5 kg per plant;
- 40 days pass from the time of germination to the first fruits;
- fruit size - 2-3 cm.
Also on sale you can find melotria under the following names:
- Mini Cucumber. The name itself indicates the "nationality" of the represented "variety". These are not cucumbers, not gherkins, but a completely different plant. Agricultural technology - like cucumbers, but without pinching the shoots.
- Big Top. The botanical description corresponds to the rough Melotria - what is the peculiarity of the “variety” is not clear. You can garden balconies, gazebos, fences. Should be clarified by sellers - edible appearance or not.
- Baby The size of the fruit is 3cm. same as ordinary melotria. Sellers do not indicate any varietal features.
- Mouse melon. This variety does not exist at all. This is simply a “folk” name for rough melotria. Nevertheless, on sale you can find packaging that says “mouse melon”. In fact, this is ordinary melotria.
Calotri Melotria Seeds
Melotria Seeds Mini Cucumber
Seeds of Melotria Chapito
Melotria Seeds Baby
Melotria Seeds Mouse Melon
Advantages and disadvantages
The benefits of "mouse watermelon":
- Leaves, unlike cucumber, do not dry and do not turn yellow - they remain green until late autumn. Because the plant can be used for decorative purposes.
- Suitable for decorating vertical and horizontal surfaces at the same time.
- The plant not only perfectly weaves on a grid, twine, wire, trees, but it grows well in separate containers. Melotria can be planted in boxes, containers, pots - it is suitable for landscaping balconies and other places where it is impossible to plant a plant directly in the ground.
- Disease resistance.
- High yield.
- Universality of application of fruits.
- Unpretentious and undemanding to leaving.
The disadvantages include the following points:
- The plant is not safe from diseases and pests of gourds.
- Melotria fruits and tubers are practically not stored - they need to be eaten fresh.
Aggression of melotria in the climate of the Russian Federation is not manifested. Unless there may be a claim to a lack of decorativeness and imperfect taste of fruits and tubers, but these are subjective assessments.
Choosing a place to land
Recommendations for sites for growing melotria:
- Lighting. Windless areas that are well lit by the sun and half shaded are suitable.
- The soil. Loose and nutritious. You can grow open ground and in pots.
- Predecessors. It is recommended to plant after onions, tomatoes, peas. Areas where cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash were grown are not suitable - there is a risk of developing diseases.
Melotria can be sown in open ground, or you can first grow seedlings, and then transplant it to the site. The second method is used in regions with a short summer. Seedling method allows you to get the crop a little earlier than when sowing in open ground.
Sowing seeds in the ground is usually used in two cases:
- if the landing is in the southern region;
- if melotria is used as an ornamental plant and fruiting is not a key objective of the plant.
In a temperate climate, melotria seeds are sown in the second decade of May. Sowing order:
- make a small furrow on a previously dug and fertilized area;
- with an interval of 20 cm, 2 seeds are planted;
- they fill the furrow with moist soil and cover it with a board.
In Russia, melotria grows as an annual, and the best way to grow it is seedlings. Sowing seeds coincides in terms with ordinary cucumbers. Seedlings are sown in early April.
The procedure for growing seedlings :
- Prepare boxes or containers. Fill them with a substrate, which immediately before sowing is abundantly watered.
- Melotria seeds are similar to cucumber seeds, but they are very small - it is better not to cover them with soil. The best option is to pour them on a substrate, and then cover them with a light-transmitting material - glass or film. Crops put in a warm room.
- Shoots appear after 2-3 days. After the appearance of the third true leaf, seedlings are planted in separate pots - 2-3 pieces each.
- A week later, the seedlings give complex fertilizer.
- Seedling care requires regular watering. It is impossible to overmoisten the soil.
- In open ground, seedlings are planted in mid-May. She tolerates transplantation and takes root quickly. If there is a risk of return frosts, plantings are covered with a film. The distance between neighboring plants is at least 40 cm.
Before transplanting, it is recommended to harden the seedlings so that they can endure tolerably unusual temperatures. Seedlings accustom to the street gradually - taking them out into the air for several hours or opening a window for ventilation if seedlings grow in the house.
Liana is quite comfortable to grow and bear fruit in the climate of the middle zone, especially since there are no problems in the southern regions. It’s easy to take care of melotria:
- Like all pumpkin likes frequent and plentiful watering. The main thing is to prevent stagnation of water and waterlogging of the soil.
- After watering, the soil is loosened, but not deep, so as not to damage the root system. To preserve moisture and prevent weed growth, the beds are mulched.
- To increase productivity, plants are fed with fertilizers .
If a plant is planted not for fruit but for decorative purposes, it is fed with nitrogen fertilizers at the initial stage of the growing season. Nitrogen contributes to the growth of green mass. If the crop is of interest, they introduce complex fertilizers, in which potassium and phosphorus predominate.
- For lianas, supports and weaving nets are prepared in advance.
- To prevent powdery mildew, the plant is sprayed with soapy water 2 times during the season. To prepare the composition, tar or laundry soap is used.
If melotria grows well, does not get sick, has a lot of green mass, it becomes a spectacular element of landscape design. Unlike other pumpkin, the foliage of the creeper does not turn yellow, does not dry and does not fade - it remains attractive until the colds.
How to collect melotria seeds?
Overripe mini cucumbers should not be thrown out. If you extract seeds from them, rinse them and dry them, you can get a portion of seeds for planting next year.
Features of collecting melotria seeds:
- To obtain seeds, it is best to use fruits that have fallen to the ground.
- Overripe fruits withstand another couple of weeks - they are laid out on a baking sheet. Keep them indoors.
- After cutting dried and sodden fruits, seeds are extracted - they are placed in a jar of water and kept for another 5 days. During this period, pathogenic microbes die, and the seeds are sorted by quality. The good ones lie at the bottom, the bad ones float to the surface.
- After 5 days, the seeds are washed and, spread out on a flat, dry surface, kept in a well-ventilated area for two weeks.
- When the seeds have dried, they are transferred to a hermetically sealed container, which is then kept in a dry and cool place.
If the seeds of melotria are stored correctly, they retain germination for up to ten years.
Melotria reproduces not only by seeds, but also by tubers - like potatoes. If you do not want to wait until the seed sprouts, you can use tubers to plant. They are not stored for a long time as a food product, but they can be stored as planting material. For this, tubers are laid in the basement in the fall. So that they do not deteriorate, they must be placed in a slightly moistened peat. Tubers are planted in the spring when the soil warms up.
Harvesting and Eating
Harvest the fruits in a slightly unripe form. Do not wait until they grow to 4 cm in length and become soft. The fruits are removed when they reach a length of 2-3 cm. Neither the fruits nor the tubers are stored for a long time. They are immediately allowed into the blanks, which are made according to "cucumber" recipes. They are salted, pickled, boiled jam.
Fruits are recommended to be eaten fresh. By re-singing, they become soft, many seeds appear in them, and the taste loses its pleasantness. Mini cucumbers are harvested for food a little immature, while they are sufficiently elastic.
Melotria fruits are used for salads, they are also included in the composition of meat, fish and vegetable dishes. Pickled mini cucumbers in canned assorted dishes - along with other vegetables. When pepper is added to the marinade, the fruits acquire an original flavor.
When the plant is fertile, you can begin to extract root crops - they can be eaten raw, put in salads, add to stew. But root crops must be used within 3-4 days, then they lose their nutritional and taste value.
Benefit and harm
“Mouse watermelon” contains a lot of useful substances. Its fruit is recommended to eat during fasting days and with diet. They contain a lot of magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, calcium, as well as vitamins C and B9.
The benefits of melotria fruits:
- the immune system is strengthened;
- pressure normalizes;
- the walls of blood vessels are strengthened;
- blood cholesterol decreases;
- cardiac activity is stimulated;
- weight is reduced and normalized.
Having a low calorie content of 15 kcal per 100 g, “mouse watermelon” causes a feeling of fullness. Scientists have found that the fruits of melotria have a tonic, restorative and anti-inflammatory effect.
Despite the many useful properties, the fruits of "mini-cucumbers" are contraindicated in people who have high acidity and have stomach diseases - gastritis, stomach ulcers and others.
Miniature "watermelon-cucumbers" should not be eaten by pregnant women. Hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, liver, kidney and gastrointestinal diseases are also a contraindication to the consumption of mini-cucumbers.
Konstantin E., amateur gardener, Kursk region.
For the first time he landed “mouse watermelons” out of interest - to see what kind of vegetable it was. Planted four bushes on one meter. At first, growth was slow, then the plant quickly grew and braided the entire lattice near the veranda.
There are a lot of fruits - small cucumbers, and I collect them until frost - there is always an ingredient for salads. Children eat “berries” directly from the vines, but I prefer it in the composition of different dishes and in canned form. The following year he built strong supports for the lashes - so that they would not break under the weight of the crop.
Natalia F., summer resident, Krasnodar Territory.
The plant is unpretentious and at the same time fruitful - ideal for summer residents. It can be used for decorative purposes - strong lashes, weave well, but there are a lot of leaves, and they are green all the time, do not fade and do not turn yellow.
Planted with seeds in open ground, grow without problems. Last year I harvested plants from plants every day - 20-25 pieces. Just enough for a salad. At the same time, melotriya beautifully braids my gazebo, I also think to plant it near the fence.
Melotria is not the most popular vegetable among our gardeners. But as a plant that combines the properties of a vine with high yields of edible fruits, it can be very attractive. Without requiring special care, the “mouse watermelon” will not only create a shadow on your site, but will also supply you with mini-cucumbers until late autumn.