How cucamelons are connecting County Food Depot volunteers

So…it’s a cucumber that looks like a minature watermelon? It’s not every day that a wee fruit makes headlines but here you have it! In fact, cucamelon plants are bringing delight into several Picton residents’ lives and gardens this summer.

Here’s how it all happened. When residents started isolating in March and staples such as toilet paper and bread were in short supply, empty grocery shelves signaled the immediate impact of COVID-19 on essentials. People quickly recognized that food insecurity would soon impact more lives. 

Thankfully, the Food Collective, established by the Municipality, The County Foundation, Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, Picton United Church, Storehouse Wellington Food Banks, and Food to Share had recently completed a model for a community food centre in the County. In a January interview with The Times, Food to Share founder Glen Wallis notes, “A food centre is a community project where all people are encouraged to come, and there is no means testing as in a foodbank.”1

Building on this fortuitous momentum, The Food Collective volunteers quickly came together to create what would become the County Food Depot. “Thanks to an $80,000 grant from Community Food Centres of Canada along with contributions from The County Foundation and the County of Prince Edward,”2 the Food Depot opened on April 17, 2020.

Co-led by The County and The Food Collective, this collaborative union has been bringing fresh fruit, veggies, pantry staples – such as pasta, rice and canned goods – as well as grocery cards to people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based out of the former fire hall portion of Picton Town Hall, the County Food Depot now operates every other Friday and brings together keen volunteers who help sort and package food boxes. And on one spring day in May, volunteer Jennifer Warr decided to contribute a little extra and brought in three small pots of freshly sprouted cucamelon seedlings to share.

Jennifer shares, “I love to garden. Starting seedlings and saving seeds contributes to food security and it’s good to have your hands in the dirt. And cucamelons are so cute!” 

Avid gardener Cheryl Anderson was bemused by the tiny plants. “I’d never seen a cucamelon and thought why not try to grow some?” She thanked Jennifer and took a cucamelon plant home for herself as well as a neighbour. 

For those who are not familiar with cucamelons, with 1.1k posts and growing, this adorable fruit is already trending on Instagram. According to Suttons Gardening Grow How!, cucamelons are “known in Mexico as Sandiitas de Raton, which literally translates to ‘Little Mouse Watermelons’. Cucamelons are a cute little fruit with bags of personality. Originating from Mexico, cucamelons will produce masses of fruit throughout the summer that taste like cucumber and lime. What’s more these small, grape size watermelon lookalikes are ignored by pests, are drought tolerant and incredibly easy to grow.”3

Well, it didn’t take long for Cheryl’s tiny cucamelon to make itself at home. She soon had to get a tomato cage to guide the plant as it grew in her garden. Her neighbour’s cucamelon was also thriving. “They are a fascinating plant – and I just had my first tiny harvest of three minature cucamelons!” 

Most importantly, Cheryl appreciates the connection these cucamelons have to volunteering in the County. A former board member of Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, she’s currently Vice President of South Shore Joint Initiative. “COVID-19 is unlike anything any of us have experienced during our lifetimes. Helping out at County Food Depot – while following social distancing and safety protocols – has been a great way to support food security as well as connect with fellow volunteers during the pandemic.”

Volunteers like Jennifer and Cheryl are just one example of how people are finding ways to connect during these challenging times. With harvest season now underway, it’s a great time of year to forge connections and be part of this vital service that is supporting food security for County neighbours. 

If you are interested in volunteering with the County Food Depot this fall, please contact Tony Walton, Communications Lead, The County Foundation at tony.walton@thecountyfoundation.ca or 343-263-4773

to learn more.   

Are you in need of food? County Food Depot at Picton Town Hall (2 Ross Street) is open from 11 am to 2 pm every other Friday. Upcoming County Food Depot Fridays are August 28, September 11 and 25, October 9 and 23. If you can’t pick up in food in person, you can make delivery arrangements through the County Help Line. Kindly call the Help Line at 1-833-676-2148 to pre-order in advance.

Sources: 1 Wellingtontimes.ca: County Food Collective2 PictonGazette.ca: Prince Edward County’s first ‘Food Depot’ opened on Friday 3 Suttons Gardening Grow How! Cucamelon: Growing Guide

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