Sanditas (“little watermelons” in Spanish) are also called Sandia de Ratón (“mouse melon”) or the unglamorous and misleading ”Mexican Sour Gherkin.” Not a cucumber much less a gherkin, these miniatures of the genus Melothria Scabra are lovely raw and pickled. I came across them last year in our organic produce market and decided to grow them.
They are delightful plants, with thin wire-like climbing vines, tiny yellow flowers that attract tiny black bees, and threads that dangle speckled green one-inch ovoid fruit like so many Christmas ornaments. They’re crunchy like cucumbers when green and I combine them with similarly sized cherry tomatoes in salad. They become sour when ripe, at which point they detach from their vines and drop to the ground. Or maybe that was caused by the wind and rainstorm that came through yesterday.
Last year, I pickled them as if making cucumber dill pickles: pricked them with a trussing needle, packed them in a clean jar with a head of dill flowers, and poured over hot liquid composed of 2/3 cider vinegar, 1/3 water and salt.
This year, to make up with a failed experiment to grow those tiny cucumbers used for cornichons, I decided to pickle the sanditas cornichon-style, with tarragon, a few spices and honey. The combination of flavorings came from Linda Ziedrich’s blog. She’s the go-to person for all things pickled, so I was happy for the advice. They cure for a few days before being ready to eat and can be stored on the counter or in the refrigerator, where they’ll keep for quite a long time.
Pickled Sanditas a la Cornichon, adapted from Linda Ziedrich
Enough Mexican Sour Gherkins or Sanditas to fill a pint jar
A few small sprigs tarragon, rinsed and dried
2 allspice berries
4 black peppercorns
10 whole coriander seeds
2/3 c white wine vinegar
1/3 c water
3/4 tsp pickling salt or Kosher salt
4 tsp honey or sugar
Wash a pint jar well in soap and very hot water, Rinse and air-dry it.
Rinse the sanditas, remove and black bits clinging to the blossom end and prick a couple of times with a trussing needle. Drop the sanditas into the jar, adding the tarragon as you go.
Meanwhile, lightly crush the allspice, pepper and coriander and add to a small saucepan with the vinegar, water, salt and honey. Bring to a boil, stirring, and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Pour the hot liquid over the sanditas, filling the jar completely. Add more vinegar to top it off if necessary. Cap the jar. I used a plastic Ball lid, but if you use a metal lid, place a piece of plastic wrap between the liquid and the metal.
Let the sanditas sit at room temperature to pickle for at least three days. Store in the refrigerator for long-term storage or eat within about a week.