It was easy enough to find some seeds so I ordered those and in the spring I sowed some along with all the usual members of the cucurbit family: cucumbers, gherkins, courgette, pumpkin and squash. Then a friend asked me if I had heard of them so I said I already had some seed and did she want some to try too? I gave her 4 seeds and off we went.
Germination was very slow, especially compared to the other cucurbits but eventually I managed to get 4 of the 6 seeds to germinate and my friend told me she had managed 2 seedlings. In due course, once the risk of frost has past, I planted my seedlings out. Again, in comparison to other cucurbits, the plants looked a bit weedy - thin and straggly - but I didn't know what to expect.
By July the plants had rambled their way up the cane teepee that I had erected for them and they looked like slightly exotic bindweed. They were flowering too, with small yellow flowers, backed with a promising fruitlet. I went away on holiday expecting to come back to a prolific crop.
I was surprised when, three weeks later I still had no fruit. The little fruitlets just seemed to drop off and not develop. Experience with other cucurbits suggested that the flowers were not being pollinated so I tried using my finger to transfer pollen between the flowers.
Several more weeks past and I was still disappointed by the lack of fruit. I checked with my friend and found it was the same story for her. Then, one afternoon, whilst rummaging through the foliage nearby for cucumbers, I found some cucamelons - about 6 to the precise! Excited, I took them inside to show my girls. They were excited too and there is no denying that they are the cutest fruit I've every grown. I felt as if I should find a toy farmer, put a cucamelon in his arms and take amusing photographs of his enormous watermelon! But instead we decided to eat them.
They are supposed to taste like a cross between a cucumber and a lime. Maybe this is a polite way to say that they are not sweet and have a sour note. I would say, rather than the pleasant sourness of citrus fruit, these things are just bitter, like a cucumber that has been left on the plant too long. I honestly had to spit mine out.
So, on the whole I am somewhat disappointed with the cucamelon. It was harder to grow than suggested, although not impossible, and the crop was far from prolific. The taste was unpleasant and, although it is probably possible to make a nice pickle or something out of them, the yield was so low it was not worth trying. They were, however, undeniably cute and in some ways it was fun giving them a go. I can, of course, look to the rather lack-lustre summer and point my finger at the weather and wonder if more sunshine would have helped. Maybe I will try again next year, armed with lower expectations and in the hope of more sunshine.