Don’t you love it when you discover a new fruit or vegetable? When I picked up our CSA this week, I spied a bin of what looked like the world’s smallest watermelons, grape sized! I was handed one to taste and was absolutely astonished. The first moment was just like biting into a fresh watermelon, but upon chewing, it definitely had the distinct flavor of cucumber with a slight sour tinge! I’d never seen them before. Certainly not grapes, but what were they?
Wrong on all counts
Well, it turns out it was neither watermelon nor cucumber. Cucamelon (Melothria scabra) is actually a gherkin, which is a member of the gourd family, like the cucumber, but it’s neither cucumber, nor watermelon.
A new superfood, or at least one that is really good for you
Cucamelon is a tropical plant, native to Mexico and Central America and might become the next superfood. They are said to benefit the heart and circulatory system, blood pressure, both female and male fertility, blood sugar regulation, and have anti-cancer components. Low in fat and carbs, cucamelons are a good source of protein, potassium, and lots of other vitamins and minerals including calcium and iron.
Versatile and tasty
Toss them in a salad, pickle them, or add them to a salsa. Use them wherever you would a cucumber. I decided to continue the watermelon illusion by pairing them with some spicy watermelon radishes, which are abundant here right now and sold by the bag at the farm stands. With some dried cranberries for a bit of sweetness, served on a bed of slightly bitter frisée, it was a nice combination with different textures and a range of flavors that worked nicely together. Use any vinaigrette you like here.
If nothing else, it’s a great conversation starter. Now, what was that strange white vegetable over there with the spiky little leaves…
Frisée Salad with Cucamelon and Watermelon Radish
A cup or more of cucamelon, halved
1 large watermelon radish, cut into small wedges
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 tbsp. minced parsley
2 tbsp. or so dried cranberries
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. fruity olive oil
1 tsp. grainy French mustard
Salt and pepper
Cut the cucamelons in half and toss in a mixing bowl. Slice the radishes in discs, then into small watermelon wedges, and the shallots into thin slices. Toss those in with the parsley and cranberries as well and mix it all up.
Whisk together the vinegar, oil, mustard, and some salt and pepper to taste. Add salt to the vegetables as well, dress lightly, and plate on a bed of frisée or other desired green.