How to Harvest and Save Cucamelon Tubers
Cucamelons are cousins to cucumbers, melons and other curcubits, however unlike most curcubits they produce a subterranean tuber similar to a potato. The tuber is not edible but is useful in growing more cucamelons the following year.
Cucamelon has two modes of reproduction, first and foremost they reproduce via seed as do most fruits and vegetables, secondly their wild ancestors also spread via tubers. The tubers remain in the ground and re sprout the following season. Domesticated cucamleon aka mouse melon can be propagated in cooler climates by digging up and saving the tubers to replant come spring.
Harvesting Cucamelon Tubers
Digging up cucamelon tubers is a snap. Once the cold weather sets in and frost has withered the vines, it’s time to dig them up. In the uppermost 10 to 12 inches of soil you will find a hairy root ball, the tubers will be a tad deeper, sometimes a tad more than a tad. In fact some can extend quite deeper than we would like. Harvesting these tubers by yanking on the plants commonly results in damaged and mangled tubers that can’t be saved.
You can dig them out with a pitchfork, in much the same fashion as potatoes are sometimes harvested. Place the pitch fork or even a garden spade a safe distance from the main stem and gently lift the surrounding soil to expose any tubers. You may have to dig a little deeper and expose the tubers by hand. Take care to avoid damaging them as they should be whole and as unmolested as possible in order to over winter.
Once you’ve gotten enough tubers to meet your requirements for the coming season you can store them. The best way to store them is in soil. A suitable sized container filled with pre-moistened potting soil will suffice. You can also store them in sand or even yard soil if you don’t mind the creepy crawlers that the soil tends to harbor.
A few inches of soil on the containers bottom – place the tubers in the pot, try to avoid letting them contact one another, and cover over with more dirt / sand / soil. Depending on the size of the container you are using you can usually fit in several layers this way, but once again try not to let them come into contact with one another.
Store your soil sheltered tubers in a cool spot for winter, not cold, just cool. A root cellar, unheated garage, tool shed or what have you. Come spring, the tubers can be removed and replanted in the garden.