Rough melotria - what is interesting about an exotic fruit vine?
Among the huge variety of horticultural crops in recent years, exotics have become increasingly common. Some of them, indeed, are suitable for our conditions and give good yields. Others are actively tested for strength, and some are still considered the latest innovations. Rough melotria has recently become one of such unusual offers on the market. Most sources speak of it as a dwarf type of watermelon. But, in fact, this plant is a completely new crop for us and has nothing to do with any of the plants that it resembles. Is it worth it to try it on your beds, you decide!
Where did the rough melotria come to us from?
Rough melotria is not accidentally attributed to numerous varieties of watermelon. Its small berries, with a length of no more than 3 and a width of 2 cm, have a very similar color to it: blurry dark green stripes go against a light green background. If you pick the fruit and show separately from the plant - then, indeed, a mini-watermelon! Yes, and melotria grows in the form of a long vine, which is very similar to watermelon lashes.
However, if you try to taste the fruit, it reminds many of the acidified cucumber. And in a longitudinal section, two halves, like halves of a cucumber. And the smell is very similar. Only now the white seeds in shape look like watermelon.
Due to this similarity, this plant has many popular names: “Mexican miniature watermelon”, “mouse watermelon”, “Mexican sour cucumber”, “Mexican sour gherkin”, “African cucumber”, “hummingbird cucumber”, as well as “cucumber”, “ Pepkin "and" mouse melon. "
Rough melotria comes from Central America. There it grows as a rather aggressive weed plant. Spreading on the ground and climbing on supports, a grassy vine suppresses other cultures. Thanks to the warm climate, it is perennial at home and propagated not only by seeds, but also by tubers.
Rough melotria was introduced to Europe recently - in 1987. It is mainly used as an exotic addition and decoration of restaurant dishes. Thanks to the curiosity of gardeners, it has established itself as a wonderful addition in assorted pickles, mixed with cucumbers, tomatoes, and pepper.
Today, a number of grades of rough melotria are offered for sale - “Baby”, “Mini Cucumber”, “Hummingbird”, “Shapito”. However, there are no special differences in them.
Botanical description of the plant
Although rough melotria (Melothria scabra) - this is neither a watermelon, nor a cucumber, she still has something in common with these cultures - belonging to the Pumpkin family. The genus at Melotria is separate - Melotria, it includes about 166 species, most of which are not edible.
Leaves of the creeper are pubescent, triangular, three-segmented with sharp ends of segments. Both female and male flowers are formed on the plant. At the same time, they are easy to distinguish: the former are arranged one at a time, bloom earlier, the latter are collected in several, bloom later. The shape of the flowers is funnel-shaped. Color is yellow.
Scourges of creepers develop rapidly. Over a season grow more than 3 meters. With the help of antennae, they easily climb to the time.
On the roots of the plant are formed quite large, weighing up to 400 g, similar to sweet potato, tubers. Thus, the yield from the bush is up to 6 kg of "cucumbers" and about 6 kg of tubers.
Recommendations for growing melotria do not include any strict features. The culture is unpretentious. He loves the sun, although he can put up with partial shade. Like all pumpkin, it prefers well-developed fertilized soils. Needs regular watering and support.
Having decided on the garden, it is good to give preference to the one where the supports will not interfere (to shade adjacent plantings), and where pumpkin did not grow in the previous few seasons. The best predecessors, like the whole pumpkin family, can be legumes, potatoes, garlic, early white cabbage, corn, cauliflower, parsley, and onions. It is recommended that culture be returned to its former place no earlier than two years later.
In our conditions, it is possible to grow rough Melotria exclusively by seeds, since tubers are difficult to keep until spring. Sowing can be carried out immediately in the garden (in a warm climate), or in cups for seedlings. In the latter case, seeding is carried out in early April. In the first, focusing on local conditions - the soil should warm up to +10 ° C.
Sowing for seedlings and in open ground
When sowing in a container, small seeds of melotria can either be slightly pressed into the soil, or sprinkled with a small layer of sifted soil and slightly tamped (for better adhesion to the substrate). Water (wet the surface of the earth with a spray bottle) and put in a warm place, with a temperature of about +24 ° C.
After about 10 days, seedlings will appear. After the seedlings form 2-3 real leaves, you can start airing to harden the plants or rearrange the pots in a cooler place with an air temperature of +18 ... + 21 ° С.
When the threat of freezing frost passes, plants can be transplanted into the open ground. The distance between them should be at least 50 cm. And it is good to immediately provide support. It is better not to let melotria on the ground, as the bush should be well ventilated.
With direct sowing at a permanent place, it is important not to rush and wait for steady heat. In the garden, the seeds will germinate a little longer, sometimes up to 2-3 weeks. Moreover, the warmer, the faster.
Rough Melotria Care
It is necessary to water the liana regularly, abundantly, under the root, without falling on the foliage. Better warm water. It is not necessary to pinch the whips.
Of the diseases in our conditions, melotria is most often amenable to powdery mildew; it has a rather high immunity to other diseases. For this reason, several preventive treatments against powdery mildew can be carried out during the season - with a solution of laundry soap, whey, cow manure infusion or phytosporin.
Harvesting and using fruits
The fruits of melotria begin to appear just a few weeks after germination and, like all pumpkin seeds, can over-ripen. Therefore, their collection is carried out regularly, not allowing the hardening of the skin. Seeds are collected from overripe fruits.
In addition to food, rough melotria can also be used as an ornamental plant - planted in hanging planters, at the arbor or fence. Her leaves do not turn yellow, thereby the decorative effect is preserved until the frost.
Due to its size and taste characteristics, rough melotria is used in salads, replacing cucumbers as an ornament of various dishes, and in “rolls”. The skin gives sourness to its fruits, and the older the fruit, the more acid. However, due to the size of the "mini-cucumbers" do not clean, but try to collect early, until the bones are formed. For canning, it is also better to use "young cucumbers", since the thick skin of ripe melotria spoils the taste.
Tubers of culture, unfortunately, are stored only in certain conditions - in wet peat in the basement, until spring it is very difficult to keep them. In addition, over time, they lose their nutritional value. Therefore, they are usually eaten immediately after harvesting. Due to the sweet and juicy taste, salads are prepared from them.