Saturday, October 23, 2010

Scary Heirlooms Only Morticia Addams Could Love

Jelly Melon
Looking Like an Innocent Cucumber Plant

Jelly Melon is known by several names including Kiwano, a trademarked name. They look just like a typical cucumber plant but these plants are best described as biological fiberglass. They require garden gloves at all times, except when dealing with the fruit.

The jelly melon looks so cool and colorful in the market but those little melons were de-clawed before they left the farm. Garden gloves aren't enough protection for handling the fruit at any size - they require thick leather gloves.

Adorable Baby Jelly Melons
Until You Touch One

Jelly melon seeds took so much longer to germinate than any cucumber seed I've planted and the plants grew so slowly compared to cucumbers. Once the vines got growing they grew exponentially and were difficult to contain. Prior to flowering I  had to cut them back but they were the most powdery mildew resistant cucurbit I've grown yet.

It took 3 months until the plants flowered and they produced the cutest females with tiny, needle sharp thorns. As these weaponized fruit developed they were too dangerous to keep in an area accessible to mischievous 3 year olds. So...the Jelly Melon plant and all of it's dangerous immature fruit had to go. The plants were even too scary to put in the compost bin.

A Litchi Tomato Plant
- Very Scary -

In retrospect, Jelly Melons were a picnic compared to the Litchi Tomato. I've never seen anything like this except maybe the nastiest of cacti. These plants could be used as a biological barbed wire fence. I suggest not going near this plant without a haz-mat suit.

A Cluster of Lovely Litchi Flowers

Litchi tomatoes are suppose to be delicious and look and taste like cherries. At the end of September after more than a month of flowering, the plant failed to produce fruit. That's not unusual for some varieties of tomatoes as the summer heat can shut down fruit production. In this case, there were lots of flowers but they would close and drop off the plant.

When the plant reached an ominous 5 foot height and 4 feet or so in width, and fruit production seemed unlikely, I decided to cut it down. This plant actually had to be sawed at the base as the stem was close to 2 inches in diameter. Unless you're wearing a haz-mat suit, the plant can't simply be pulled up and removed. I cut the plant and let it wilt for a week and then removed it from the garden. It went out with the trash too. Litchi tomato might be a good barrier to keep predators out but it was too big and too scary to be growing in a small peaceful garden.

For more information and photos of litchi tomatos check out this recent post from Love Apple Farm.

There's nothing scary about Muscade de Provence pumpkins - in fact they're suppose to be sweet. This was my 2nd year growing Muscade and all of the pumpkins so far have been big, beautiful and...bland. Well, at least they're big enough to carve for Halloween.

Have a Fun, Scary, Wild & Spooky Halloween!


  1. That is a scary looking cucumber!!

  2. wow, I didn't know such a plant existed! Yikes!

  3. Hi Linda! The jelly melons reminded me of those Hawaiian shark tooth weapons. I had no idea the fruit were covered in huge thorns. I guess that's why they're so expensive.

    Hi Tracy! I planted this thing in ignorance - I can't believe they call it a tomato - the package should come with a black box warning!

  4. Wow that's unerving seeing as how I was eyeing the jelly melons in my bakers creek catalog.... well not for me friend!

    That's a very nice looking pumpkin I decided next year I'm going to grow carving pumpkins and eating pumpkins!!

  5. Hi organic-momma! Jelly melons are definately not something to grow when you have a young child. Their fingers or hands could be wounded from touching these fruit at any stage. Those declawed jelly melons at the market are deceiving! Pumpkins grow well for me but a lot of them are bland and I can't figure out why. Sweet Kikuza has been the sweetest of all the winter squash I've grown so far.

  6. Jane you do grow some crazy things! Bummer that the Litchi didn't fruit for you, i was looking forward to hearing how it tastes. Sometimes those catalog descriptions are, well, optimistic ; )

    It's surprising how well-armed some plants can be. I grew a variety of eggplant last year that had hooked thorns all along the underside of the leaves.

    Your pumpkin looks great! What is the keeping power of the winter squashes/pumpkins you are are growing? Does the flavor improve with age? Have you tried growing Delicata squash?

  7. Hi Julie! LOL! These plants might not be an issue in a huge garden but mine is too small to isolate them. I was hoping to at least get a few Litchis to try - oh well!

    The only pepo I've grown so far was Sugar Pie and it wasn't sweet either. It could be the harvested squash need a cooler place to cure or that it's just too hot in the summer here in Kihei. I don't normally use the moschatas or maximas until they've turned color. Some turn in a short time frame and others take a few months.

    When I cut the Muscade it was full of sprouted seeds which might mean that it's just too hot. So it became my Halloween pumpkin this year. I have about 10 Greek Sweet Reds still in the garden and maybe this one will live up to it's name. I'll be harvesting them later in November - maybe the cooler temps will help make them sweeter.

  8. I'm currently growing Jelly Melons- my kids are all teenagers- and the plants are taking over one corner of my garden. I expected that so there's nothing else in that corner but the fence sure looks lovely with all that greenery on it. I put them in the ground when they were about 8 inches tall and some of the vines are not about ten feel long...and no flowers even. I hope our growing season lasts long enough to get some fruit.

    As for prickly plants, one of my kids spit an orange seed into one of my house plants and it sprouted. Not sure what kind of orange it was but the plant is now a small tree and it has thorns all over it that are about 3 inches long and wicked sharp. It's still in a pot as we live in a climate that gets quite cold in the winter, so it probably won't get very big and may or may not produce fruit (I've read conflicting information on this)

    anyway, great blog!

  9. Hi Danielle! I was surprised how long it took for the jelly melon vines to flower. I hope yours flower soon so you will have jelly melons before the weather changes!

  10. Actually my daughter just came in and told me there are some flowers and tiny melons under all the leaves so I went and looked and sure enough, there they are :D Yay!

  11. Hi Danielle! I'm glad you found some baby jelly melons growing - they're so cute but their little thorns hurt - good luck!