Soil This is a rugged plant in most soil types, and likely to survive in most African locations. However, top yields of quality fruits requires well-drained soils with organic matter and balanced nutrients.

Related Species

The genus Cucumis contains around 30 species of the Old World tropics, mostly Africa. It includes both cucumber (C. sativus) and melon (C. melo; see Chapter 8 in this section). Although cucurbits are notorious for hybridizing among themselves, attempts over the past 40 years to cross these species with horned melon have almost always been uniformly unsuccessful (see Next Steps, above).

West Indian Burr Gherkin (Cucumis anguria L.)21 The burr gherkin has long been used for making fine pickles and is called by some the “true” gherkin (the word traditionally applies to immature cucumbers). Although native to Africa, this small fruit is commonly called “West Indian” gherkin because its cultivation and use is so widespread in those islands. It is also grown, and has also naturalized and sometimes spread as a pest, in other parts of the tropics. In Africa, wild types grow down from Tanzania and across to Namibia, and the cultivated West-Indian forms have been introduced in many places. The small fruits (about 5 cm long) are covered with burrs like horned melon, except the spines are fleshy. Though usually bitter, nonbitter types have been selected in several countries and, in addition to pickling, are eaten fresh, dried, and in soups. The leaves are also eaten. Both cultivars of the West Indian gherkin and the wild types of Africa have drawn the attention of scientists because of potential disease and pest resistance (especially whitefly), but little has been done to explore and improve the horticultural potential of these productive fruits. It is possible that its yield potential is higher than for pickling cucumbers.22


Also once called Cucumis longipes.


Information from Plant Resources for Tropical Africa, at

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement