Wild Cucumber, Creeping Cucumber: Melothria pendula
Cucumbers are a refreshing, versatile vegetable used in many global cuisines. Unfortunately for many Florida gardeners the common cucumber, Cucumis sativus is a challenge to grow in a low input organic garden. Our pest pressure, heavy rains and high humidity all play havoc on this culinary staple. Fortunately for us humid subtropic growers there are a few excellent alternatives. Melothria pendula, Melothria scabra, and Coccinia grandis are all relatives of the common cucumber with similar taste and uses, although all are miniatures of the standard. The Creeping cucumber, Melothria pendula, is a native of Florida, and the Southeast US, and thrives in our hot, wet, and humid conditions. The small grape sized fruits resemble a mini watermelon, and should only be consumed when immature and green. As the fruit matures the skin becomes soft and turns a dark green black, at this state the fruit is not fit for consumption and has been linked to stomach upset and laxative effects. At the green or light green immature stage the creeping cucumber taste like a pleasantly tart common cucumber, almost as if the fruit has been pickled. Most commonly found along low woodland edges, fences, marsh edges, and other open or disturbed areas, this species can also be grown as a garden vegetable and does best with a climbing support such as a trellis, fence, or small open tree such as wax myrtle. We are starting to propagate these wonderful edible natives and will have the plants available in a couple months. To learn more about other edible natives and unusual crops check out our blogs at www.GreenDreamsFL.com.