Mexico’s “mouse melon” is actually a tiny cucumber.
Cucamelons are grape-sized fruits that look like Lilliputian watermelons but taste like cucumbers. They are native to Mexico and Central America, where they go by nicknames such as sandita (“little watermelon”) or sandía ratón (“mouse melon”).
They look so much like watermelons that unscrupulous seed-mongers often sell them as actual tiny watermelons, complete with photoshopped images displaying red insides and tiny sesame-sized watermelon seeds. Gardeners who get duped by this scam will go through the trouble of growing those seeds only to find that their “mini watermelons” are actually green inside, with tiny white seeds and a flavor that’s nothing like watermelon.
Cucamelons are in the same family as both cucumbers and watermelons, so the similarities they have are not entirely coincidental. However, since they are not in the same genus of either fruit, the relation they have is not a close one.
Although very similar in taste, cucamelons are more sour than standard cucumbers and have a slight lime flavor. They make a great snack on their own, though a dash of salt is recommended. In cooking, they’re used in the same ways as cucumbers, with one primary advantage: No slicing is required. Chefs add them to salads and stir-fries, while bartenders use them as a cocktail garnish. The fruits also have a firm outer skin that makes them perfect for brining into adorable, crunchy pickles.
Need to Know
These fruits are becoming increasingly popular outside their native range, but you probably won’t find them in supermarkets. You may get lucky tracking them down at a farmer’s market, but otherwise your best bet is growing them yourself.