The garden will still grow even if life gets in the way.
We always begin very ambitiously. We plan large and plant larger. If I had known that we would be so dedicated to small farming then I would have bought a farm. Instead we have an adorable schoolhouse and the old school yard is becoming a row crop garden. You should see next year’s plan complete with green houses and cold frames.
This past winter I was hunkered down dreaming of the smell of dirt when I read about the most adorable little gherkin in my seed catalogue. I wrote them on my want list and then scratched them off again while trying to narrow down our variety of cukes to 3 or less. But they would not be forgotten. The Mexican gherkin seemed to haunt me by showing up in every catalogue, book, or blog I looked at.
Finally fate brought us together at my local nursery, Dandelion Acres. I was wandering Greenhouse 1 where the tenderest plants had just started sprouting and I made my way over to the green carpets. From afar they look like carpets, but up close, it is rows of tables covered with fuzzy sprouts growing from a honeycomb of 1” square baby planters. Most of the sprouts had not yet been marked with identifiers and were too small to sell but tucked here and there was a grouping of tender plant starts like celery or cilantro (both best grown directly in the ground). One of the groupings had ity bity plants with tendrils just beginning to stretch out past the confines of the 1” cube. This group appeared to be the first in the comb to grow large enough transplant. Marking a dozen of the sprouts were hand-written tags that said Mexican Gherkin. I squealed (yup. Sure did.) and brought home one baby for me to raise and love and fawn over.
Well I am a bit of a neglectful parent, and while I managed to settle my start into prime bed I did little to love and nurture it. I mean I did nothing. None the less the plant began to cover the ground and produce little yellow blossoms that soon turned into tiny little melons. The whole growth pattern is like a melon but on a teeny tiny scale.
After doing nothing but look at the plant for months, the cool weather began to roll in and warm weather plants like basil began to really wind down for the season.
I decided that the melons were not going to get any bigger so I gently turned the growth over and harvested anything that I might have been sad to lose to frost. From the one little sprout in the green house I yielded 3 cups of fruit.
The fruit crunches like a cucumber and the inside seems to burst when bitten into. I might compare the texture of the mouse melons to okra but without the slime factor. Love!
From the time I was introduced to the gherkins I wanted to pickle them and the recipe I kept coming back to was the sour lemon verbena gherkins from Tart & Sweet (by Kelly Geary & Jessie Knadler). I used this recipe as a start and made some adjustments to the recipe for my own taste. I am thrilled with the results!! I see lots of these little ladies in our garden next year.
When pickled the mouse melons remind me of pickled okra. These are heavy on the lemon, light on the dill. If you want more of a sour lemon pucker then you could omit the sugar and use all white vinegar.
Lemon Pickled Mouse Melons
- 1c white vinegar
- 1c white wine vinegar (sub white balsamic or rice vinegar)
- 3/4c water
- 1ts sugar
- 2ts canning salt
Seasoning per quart jar:
- 2-3 slices lemon rind or zest (about half a lemon)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 Tb lemon balm leaves
- 2-3 small dill flowers (sub 2 tsp dill leaves or 1 ts dill seed)
- 1/2 ts black peppercorns
Yield approx. 1 quart.
Begin by washing and boiling the canning jars. Bring the lids to a simmer in a small pot.
Next wash and prep the tiny melons by gently scraping off the blossom end with your fingernail or a small knife.
Combine the brine ingredients together in a small pan and bring to a boil. While the brine is coming to a boil pack the jars with the seasoning and mouse melons.
Pour the boiling brine over the fruit in the jar leaving ¼” head space. Check for air bubbles and be sure all the fruit is submerged. Wipe the rims, seal the jars, and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.