Adorably teeny tiny Mexican Sour Gherkins (Melothria scabra) are starting to pop up all over the vines I’ve got growing at my community garden plot. The fruit in the picture is about half and inch or so and should be approximately 1-2″ when fully ripe however I am extremely impatient and picked a few for tasting. They taste very much like tiny, juicy cucumbers. Every description I have read says they have a surprisingly sour skin that makes them taste almost pre-pickled straight off the vine. Mine were very fresh flavored so I can only guess that the sourness will develop as the fruit matures.
The plant is a very ornamental and prolific vine with lots of pretty little leaves dotted by miniature yellow flowers. The tiny, ridiculously cute fruit are like Lilliputian watermelons, accounting for nicknames like “mouse melon” and Ã¢â‚¬Å“sandÃƒÂitaÃ¢â‚¬Â (Spanish for little watermelon).
I started mine this past spring from seeds purchased online via Seed Savers. I was a little bit concerned by the small size of the plants in comparison to other cucumbers at planting time but they took off immediately and quickly climbed up the trellis I made for my cucumbers using bamboo stakes and a plastic “chicken wire” leftover from another project. So far the plants are living up to their reputation as a pest and disease-resistant species — while some of the other curcubits are starting to show signs of powdery mildew the Mexican Sour Gherkins are entirely blemish and pest free. The plants are also much more drought tolerant than other cucumber-related plants making them a welcome addition to gardens like mine that can’t be tended to on a daily basis. I am not growing any on my rooftop garden this year but I would imagine that unlike many cucumber varieties that can be tricky in containers, their drought tolerant nature and small size would make this a good option in a medium-large sized container.
I made a quick trip to my community garden plot yesterday where several large zucchinis and cucumbers were quickly expanding into over-sized monster vegetables. I had been gone for 6 days and Davin was unable to get into the garden with a poorly copied key. There are more cucumbers on the way and little scalloped patty pan zucchinis are forming. It’s gonna be a good harvest year.
A prize winner has been chosen in the last contest. Kelly of Texas has won a copy of “Let’s Get Primitive: The Urban Girl’s Guide to Camping – by Heather Menicucci. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. There will be another soon.
…Because I had to post something a little more optimistic. Both of these Polaroids were taken this morning on my rooftop. The ‘Miniature White‘ cucumber variety is a lot less yellow then as seen in this photo as the Polaroid film has a yellow cast. It is the largest of a bunch of cucumbers that are soon to be harvested from the rooftop garden. The plant is growing in a garbage bin and the zinnias are growing in an old flour canister.
You can see the photos larger here.
The epic saga of sadness and destruction now dubbed Operation Garden Terrorism continues. Today I went outside to discover a patch of plants had been crushed along with two sections of the bamboo fence that we built in the early spring. The fence had been kicked in and broken in two spots. What is going on?
I really need to make a sign like this for my street garden. Except mine would include an assortment of choice words and threats… all the things I want to say to the various offenders but can’t because I never catch them in the act. Threats such as, “If I ever catch you urinating in my garden you better have jets on your feet.” My neighbor once relayed the story of coming home to find a business man had stepped out of a limo and was urinating on our front steps. Now we’re not in the middle of nowhere here. There is a coffee shop right around the corner just a few steps away. Instead of shouting threats or calling the guy out he just walked up, stood alongside him and pulled down his zipper. “Watching you makes me feel like peeing here too.” he said to the startled and confused public urinator. I’m guessing that as a female this tactic would not be effective for me.
I often stop to photograph signs like the one above wherever I find them. And I find them more often than you’d think. It would be nice to believe that everyone appreciates the hard work gardeners put into making something beautiful that everyone can share in but the reality is that some people are messed up and those people sometimes feel resentment towards other living things and acts of beauty. Maybe it hurts them too much? Maybe they don’t feel like they can share in it but rather that it is just another thing they can’t have in their lives? Maybe they’re just angry as hell and need to take it out on something? Maybe they just need to pee RIGHT NOW and they don’t care where and they don’t care how? I don’t know or even understand all of the motives but I do know that just about any city gardener has a story and we’ve all learned an unexpected thing or two about human psychology via our gardens. Although I never would have thought of it, I really dig the signs that threaten karmic smiting. However when it comes down to it I find that I can’t wait or even believe that the “universe” will take care of business, I want to be the one to deliver the blow.
When bad things happen to my garden I sometimes feel angry enough to cut some heads off. Metaphorically of course. But other times I just feel sad. Defeated. When my garden was most recently viciously assaulted my response wasn’t to get angry or violent. Instead, uncharacteristically, I crumbled. I decided to tack up a letter addressed to the perpetrator but all I could muster up was a sad and pathetic, “Why?” This time it just hit me in a way that it hasn’t in the past. This person didn’t just clumsily fall into the irises or trample the lilies on their way to a semi-private pee spot against the back wall. This person maliciously and purposefully took out every globe thistle in the garden. The thistles were big. They were tall and just about to bloom. This person very meticulously tramped every single stem in such a way that the stems were crushed right to the ground like crop circles in a corn field. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that this was not the cruel work of a tiny spaceship or a troop of little greys but the calculated act of a real human. I couldn’t believe it. Of all the things that have happened in and around that garden this particular act just floored me, leaving me feeling sad and powerless in a way that I did not like. So much so that it has taken me 4 weeks to coherently write here about this event. I mean I could get angry and throw stuff but who do I direct the anger towards when they are a faceless phantom? And what made it worse was how the purposefulness of it felt personal, like it wasn’t just the plants that were destroyed but that I had also been kicked in the gut and left to rot. And that no one did anything about it in that way that people will watch an assault on the street and then shamefully turn away from the victim rather than reach out or help.
And it gets worse. I know the attack happened during the day when there is always at least one or several people from the law clinic standing around shooting the shit and smoking. I know because I am never without an audience as I bend over to work on the garden. And they never say a peep and turn away when I look in their direction, never engaging and then when I am not around throwing their butts into the garden. To top it off, when I went outside that day and discovered the destruction I stood there for several minutes in shock. And then the emotions started to come. And as I turned around I caught a woman standing inside the doors of the law office gawking at me! Thanks lady!
About a week or so after the incident, I had finally got up the nerve to go out there and begin cleaning up and moving on. The thing is, what happened sucked but I’ve been through a lot with that garden, worse than this. And I’ve been through a lot in my life, much, much worse than this. And after a certain point I can’t not get back on the horse and keep going. Thankfully my stubbornness knows no limit. As I was getting ready to leave a man stopped and called out to me from across the street saying that he loved the garden and was glad to see that I was able to get back on my feet and keep going after what had happened. I was feeling too overwhelmed at the time to say what I felt but I want to tell that lovely man how much I appreciated his words and support. That seemingly small and simple act of kindness from a stranger really turned things around for me because he had acknowledged what had happened, saw how it had hurt, and turned towards me instead of looking away.