Curious about the Juicy Cucurbits?

Curious about the Juicy Cucurbits?


Well they’re not ready to eat yet. In fact, we (that’s the Royal WE) are just hardening off our cucumber, melon and watermelon seedlings ready to transplant into our back garden. But I’m already looking forward to picking these wonderful “fruits” – there’s nothing nicer than eating a warm cucumber straight from the vine ….YUM! But watermelons and melons? Well, they’re nicer after being chilled in the fridge.

Speaking of fridges, ever seen a ‘square’ watermelon? Well they do exist! Created by the Japanese to save space and to ensure that they fit in the fridge more easily, they’re grown in a square container, when the watermelon is still growing on the vine. The containers are the exact dimensions of Japanese refrigerators. As you can imagine they are hugely expensive and we can’t imagine that you’ll see them at your local Countdown anytime soon!


Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), cucumber (Cucumis sativus), and melon (Cucumis melo) are all species of the cucurbit or vine-crop family (the Cucurbitaceae). This family also includes squash, pumpkin, and gourds but they are only distantly related. Cucumber, melon, and watermelon are originally from the Old World (primarily Africa and Asia). The other cucurbit species are from the New World (primarily Central and South America).

Watermelon is thought to have originated in the Kalahari Desert of Africa. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt and watermelons were often placed in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife.

Watermelon, cucumber, and melon plants are trailing or vining, tendril-bearing, frost-sensitive (be aware of both early and late frosts) annuals. They are mostly monoecious (separate male and female flowers) and require various insects, especially bees, for pollination. They will germinate later than most cucurbits preferring warmth – ideally 25 to 30 degrees C. Without bottom heat, sow seed no earlier than Labour Weekend. They will grow more vigorously and quickly then and will catch up to seed sown earlier.

If you want uniformity and fruit maturing at around about the same time so you can pick the whole crop together, choose a HYBRID. Gerard's picks - Cucumber Diva F1, Melon Venice F1, Watermelon Rapid Red F1.

But if you're not worried about uniformity and would prefer the fruit to ripen over a period of time, choose an OPEN POLLINATED variety. Gerard's picks - Cucumber Marketmore, Melon Charentais, Watermelon Sugar Baby.

If you would like to try something totally different - Cucumber Poona Kheera, Melon Banana, Watermelon Baby Doll F1.


Watermelon is 92% water with just a small amount of fibre to hold the flesh together. You know those infuriating watermelons that look divine until you cut them open? The flesh is all cracked and no longer juicy? This is due to water stress, either too much or not enough, as the fruit expands and contracts and splits as a result.

Want to know when your watermelon is ripe – try the pink, pank, punk test! And that’s nothing to do with Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Or am I just showing my age? Tap or knock lightly (not using your rhythm stick) on the fruit. If you hear a “pink” or “pank” sound the fruit is not ripe. If you hear a “punk” sound, the fruit is ripe. Go Ian!!! For those of you with iPhones, there is even a melon-testing app - knock on the melon with the phone nearby and see whether it is ripe! Amazing!

Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

Looking for a 'green' way to clean your taps, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean. Not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but it won't leave streaks and won't harm your fingers or fingernails while you clean.

And Melons? Well, they’re just great to eat! Nibbles, Appetisers, Main or Dessert. A wee menu for you!

Nibbles - Wrap melon wedges or cubes with thinly sliced prosciutto ham or dice melon to make a great fruit salsa.

Appetiser – See my old favourite recipe below!

Main - Mix with chicken or seafood for a savoury salad or use melon as an attractive edible garnish. You can even season melon with lemon or lime juice or cayenne pepper to serve with any cold meats.

Dessert - Make quick melon kebabs! Thread different melon varieties on a skewer for a colourful treat. Or serve melon cubes with vanilla ice cream drizzled with non-alcoholic syrups like hazelnut or orange.

Melon Appetiser

1 Melon or equivalent Watermelon

½ Cucumber (telegraph skin on, otherwise not)

4 large tomatoes

French Dressing (2 parts cider vinegar, 1 part good quality olive oil)

Dice skinned melon.

Dice cucumber and sprinkle with salt then drain.

Skin tomatoes and chop.

Gently mix together with dressing and then chill.

Just before serving add 1T parsley, chives and mint.

Enjoy! Hope you've got your seedlings ready to go too......

Roll on summer!

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