This year, however, I've discovered something new. Something the squirrels don't seem to be interested in (which is somewhat alarming). Something that is available in Nashville. Something that should not be eaten if ripe. But may be tasty if green. It is the creeping cucumber: melothria pendula. An awfully sinister name for a tiny cucumber, right?
First, some background. I actually first discovered this little cuke along the fence line with my neighbor last year. There wasn't a whole lot to it; a delicate vine of leaves, flowers and fruits that were all quite dainty. The leaves resemble English ivy, but were only about two inches wide and very thin. The flowers looked a bit like tomato flowers in size but resembled cucumber blossoms. And the fruit looked like teeny-tiny watermelons, only about three-quarters of an inch long. But when I opened up a fruit, it had a distinct cucumber smell and texture and large (for its size) seeds. I did my best to Google it, but found nothing.
This year, the vines came back and were much more prolific. I started to notice them about a month ago, and they've been fruiting quite a bit.
This time around, my Google skills were much better, because I found this entry on Eat The Weeds that answered all my questions. And more. But, in sum, what I've got in my yard is a fruit that I can actually harvest, eat and enjoy. Which is more than I can say for anything I've actually tried to grow.
Have any of you ever seen or eaten one of these tiny cucumbers? I have no idea how they got there (I know my neighbor didn't plant them). They're quite tasty and — more importantly — not toxic when green; it's been well over a week and I still haven't gotten sick and/or died. (Stay away from fruit that are dark-green or black.)
P.S. More on sometimes toxic/sometimes not toxic edibles on NPR's The Salt blog.