Mouse melons, two ways

Mexican sour gherkins aka mouse melonsEvery year I try one or two new things in my garden. This year it was Mizuna greens (Brassica rapa nipposinica) and Mexican sour gherkins (Melothria scabra), Spanish name: sandita.

Those cuties are also called mouse melons. Despite my extreme fear of mice, I love that name because that’s exactly what they look like. And all is good as long as I don’t encounter a mouse in my garden trying to lug them away!

After a slow and leggy start from seed in jiffy pots in early May, my two plants produced about three pounds total of adorable gherkins, which have also started to pop up at some farmers’ markets and CSA bags in the United States.

I grew the gherkins on a trellis, which was pretty and space-saving. The plants with their dense foliage choked out any weeds and they did not require much care other than regular watering. But they require patience when it comes to harvesting – once they started producing, I picked a few inch-size gherkins every other day and collected them in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator until I had enough to pickle a jar full.

The gherkins taste rather bland on their own but chopped they are a great addititon to salsa, and pickled whole they are delicious, and fabulously crunchy.

After a bit of trial and error I came up with two recipes, one for a sweet, bread-and-butter-style pickle, and one for a sour dill pickle, both refrigerator pickles. As a test I also canned a couple of jars, and I will know in a few months whether these taste as good as the refrigerator pickles.

I added a couple of grape leaves from my Concord grapes to the jars, which is a trick to keep pickles crunchy.

Both recipes include a couple of jalapeños. It is a good idea to taste the jalapeños before adding them. I have found that their heat varies greatly from pepper to pepper, even from the same plant. To temper them, let the seeded jalapeño halves sit in ice water for a few minutes.

Sweat-and-Sour Pickled Mouse Melons

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon pickling salt

¼ teaspoon turmeric

2/3 cup sugar

2 to 3 organic grape leaves (optional), washed well

1¼ pounds Mexican sour gherkins, washed well and chilled

1-inch piece of cinnamon

3 whole cloves

1 star anise

1 cardamom pod, crushed

2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed

½ teaspoon celery seed

2 to 4 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, halved and seeded, to taste

1. Bring the apple cider vinegar with the salt, turmeric and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar, salt, and turmeric. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

2. Line a large screw-top jar with the grape leaves. Layer the gherkins with the rest of the spices and the jalapeño peppers. You can also use several smaller jars, just make sure you divide the spices and jalapeño peppers equally among them.

3. Add the cooled liquid to cover the gherkins entirely. Close the jar and refrigerate. Let them sit for at least three days before eating. The gherkins get tastier every day and keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Sour Mouse Melon Dill Pickles

¾ cup apple cider vinegar

¾ cup water

1 tablespoon pickling salt

2 to 3 organic grape leaves (optional), washed well

12 ounces Mexican sour gherkins, washed well and chilled

2 teaspoons black peppercorns, crushed

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

1 tablespoon dill seed

2 to 4 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, halved and seeded, to taste

2 fresh dill twigs, washed well

1. Bring the apple cider vinegar with the water and the salt to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

2. Line a large screw-top jar with the grape leaves. Layer the gherkins on top with the spices, jalapeño peppers and dill twigs.

3. Add the cooled liquid to cover the gherkins entirely. Close the jar and refrigerate. Let them sit for at least three days before eating. The gherkins get tastier every day and keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

 

Photos by Ted Rosen

 

 

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Mouse melons, two ways

  1. How did your canned mouse melons turn out? I grew them them this year for the first time and have 2 pounds I’m planning on pickling. Any advise?

    1. Jordan, The canned mouse melons were not good, while they were still very crunchy on the outside, the inside was sort of gooey, not because they spoiled, just an odd soft unpleasant texture. So this year I did not process them in a boiling water bath, just keep them in the fridge. I will update the blog post accordingly so I appreciated your question.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s