Have you ever had a mini Mexican Sour Gherkin aka Sandiita raton? Me neither. But I’m really curious. I have heard that I can find it here at farmers’ market in Manhattan’s Union Square. I would definitely try to get to the Greenmarket on Saturday morning (starts at 8:00 am). My favorite time to go to the greenmarkets is in the winter. I feel like some kind of pioneer, bundling up first thing in the morning when it’s 25ºF outside to go out for provisions (my husband thinks I’m crazy). But I can’t help myself. There are root vegetables galore; especially rutabagas, yautia, parsnips, pickles, grains and dried beans. Perhaps I’ll see if I can pick up some jicamas, mushrooms and Cider. Okay, enough chit-chat, please continue reading.
The scientific name of this plant is Melothria scabra. It is native to Mexico and Central America, and was first described scientifically in 1866 by the French botanist Charles Victor Naudin. Melothria scabra is a species of cucurbitaceous vine grown for its edible fruit. Fruit are about the size of grapes and taste like cucumbers; they are notable for their sour aftertaste that comes from the skin. Vernacular names include mouse melon, Mexican sour gherkin, sandiita raton and Mexican miniature watermelon. It has been a staple of Mexican and Central American diets since pre-Columbian times, hence its great array of names in indigenous languages. These people also use the melon in non-culinary ways, including in medicine, yet little of this information can be found in mainstream literature.
If you like pickles, you’re in luck: They’re low in calories, have no fat and have probiotic benefits. Mexican cookbooks written for North Americans include recipes on how to use Mouse melons, yet seeds are readily available in the United States. Mouse melons are terrific in stir-fries; they can be pickled just like French gherkins, eaten raw in salads or put up like Polish dill pickles. They also can be chopped and added to salsas for extra texture and flavor. I was surfing the internet and found this recipe. I’m definitely going to try them!
about 1 1/4 lbs, Mexican Sour Gherkin
3 tablespoons pickling salt
4 shallots, peeled
1 bay leaf
2 tarragon sprigs
10 black peppercorns
2 small dried chile peppers
about 2 cups white wine vinegar
Wash the mini watermelon gently, and remove the blossom ends. In a bowl, mix the minis with salt. Let them stand 24 hours. Drain the cucumbers. Rinse them in cold water, and pat each one dry with a clean towel. Pack the cucumbers into a sterile 1-quart jar, interspersing among them the shallots, bay leaf, tarragon, peppercorns, and chili peppers, and leaving at least 1 inch headspace. Fill the jar to the brim with vinegar. Cover the jar tightly with a non-reactive cap, preferably one that is all plastic. Store the sealed jar in the refrigerator they will be ready to eat in 4 to 6 weeks. Happy Pickling!