The Wild Cucumber, aka Belly Busters

@Raelove (18292)
Saco, Maine
September 11, 2019 1:20pm CST
When I look back, it seems that I've always had a fascination with things that grow wild. Even as a child playing in the neglected lots around where I lived, I was intrigued by some of the plants and weeds I'd come across. Usually, some aspect of them attracted my attention...their colorful berries or flowers or their growing habit. One that came to mind recently is the wild cucumber (echinocystis lobata), a vining plant that grew in profusion in an alley behind some houses that bordered several other back yards. The vine produces round prickly fruit that, when broken open, does indeed smell like a fresh cucumber. It is not, however, edible, although the crushed roots can be used as a painkiller. Back then, I didn't know this. But I and my neighborhood friends did have fun dropping the fruit on the ground and stomping on it with our feet, producing a wet popping sound, which led to our calling them belly busters. I suppose it's because they were round and plump like bellies and we could "bust" them open. It's too long ago now for me to be sure, but that sounds about right. Since then, despite my many ramblings in woods and fields, I've never again come across the wild cucumber. That, or I have but didn't notice it. With all the development where I grew up in the last few decades, it's not surprising that many wild plants no longer exist. I realize now, though, that even at that young age, I was already noticing things that most children didn't. Even then, Nature was at work fine-tuning perceptions that would last me my entire life. (Public Domain Image)
13 people like this
13 responses
@myklj999 (31401)
• Olney, Illinois
11 Sep
I've always had a fascination with things that grow wild I used to grow pretty wild on weekends, but I've settled down considerably since then I don't recall ever seeing those
3 people like this
@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
11 Sep
Well, then, good for the old ticker! We're going back more than 50 years here. Haven't seen any since then. But then again, there aren't many "wild places" left where I grew up or anywhere else around here, for that matter. As for wild people, those have also gone the way of the passenger pigeon in the 70's Club I now belong to.
2 people like this
@mrki444 (5799)
• Osijek, Croatia (Hrvatska)
11 Sep
I never saw such cucumber.
2 people like this
@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
11 Sep
While other cultures might consider it edible, it is not here. The fruit are actually hollow inside, with just some delicate membranes and lots of juice. And the outside has long prickly spines all around it. I can't see taking a bite out of one! LOL!
2 people like this
@mrki444 (5799)
• Osijek, Croatia (Hrvatska)
11 Sep
@Raelove Hollow inside? I didn't know such thing exsist. We have this type in our garden.
@moffittjc (60096)
• Gainesville, Florida
14 Sep
I have always had an appreciation for the wild, or anything that has to do with nature. I grew up camping, hiking, fishing and hunting in the wilderness. My parents taught me to have a very healthy respect and love for nature. It's something that has stuck with me all the years of my life. As for wild cucumbers, I don't think I have ever seen them before.
1 person likes this
@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
15 Sep
As I stated, I haven't seen any since in all my own ramblings. But there's been so much development around here, and lots of the neglected areas I played in as a kid are now the sites of buildings or have been paved over. These tend to grow in places that haven't been disturbed...vacant fields and such. You'll know it if you see it now!
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@moffittjc (60096)
• Gainesville, Florida
20h
@Raelove That's true! I'll now know what to look for and will know them if I spot them! Do you know the range of their habitat, what parts of the US they grow in?
• United States
13 Sep
Pity it is not edible. I love cukesand especially cucumber sandwiches.
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@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
13 Sep
There really would be nothing to eat if it were, as the fruit are hollow with just a few membranes, seeds, and water inside it. And as you can see, taking a bite out of one would not be a good idea!
1 person likes this
• United States
13 Sep
@Raelove No it would not well its like my mouth hardly any teeth left lol
@JudyEv (170784)
• Bunbury, Australia
12 Sep
We have several sorts of wild melons here which look a tiny bit similar. We used to bust the smaller ones too. Some of the larger ones would be added to jams as a 'filler'. The common name is paddy melons (bigger ones are pie melons). This one is sitting in the palm of my hand so they're quite small.
1 person likes this
@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
12 Sep
I don't see a photo, Judy. These wild cucumbers are members of the cucurbit family, but they're small and virtually hollow except for some fibrous membranes, seeds, and water. We used to pretend as kids that, if we were lost in the wilderness, we'd be able to drink the water and survive!
1 person likes this
@JudyEv (170784)
• Bunbury, Australia
12 Sep
@Raelove Sorry about the photo. I can see it so I'm not sure why it's not appearing for you. The innards of these are much the same as you describe.
@divalounger (3188)
• United States
11 Sep
I grew up wandering around the woods and meadows near our house and loved finding out about the plants there--I have not seen these before though--thank you!
1 person likes this
@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
11 Sep
You're welcome. I suspect that the decades of applying herbicides along roadsides and in vacant lots has done away with lots of once-indigenous species. Our loss really...
1 person likes this
• United States
11 Sep
@Raelove I suspect you are correct--
@CarolDM (40806)
• United States
11 Sep
Never heard of this one. Enjoy learning about nature around us.
1 person likes this
@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
11 Sep
I never tire of learning new things about Nature. Never gets old.
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@CarolDM (40806)
• United States
11 Sep
@Raelove I agree with you.
• United States
13 Sep
i'm so glad y'all didn't eat any 'f those. ya were what they call'n "old soul" 'n that'd be a good thingy. so much 's been lost with the claim 'f progress.
1 person likes this
@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
13 Sep
I don't eat anything that grows in the wild unless I am 100% certain of what it is. And yes, it has.
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@Corbin5 (155681)
• United States
11 Sep
I do not think I have seen this wild cucumber. I do remember coming across wild gooseberries in our neighborhood and I enjoyed eating those.
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@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
11 Sep
We used to be able to pick chokecherries everywhere near where I grew up. They're all gone thanks to development and herbicides.
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• United States
11 Sep
It seems there are many treasures in nature if we are willing to take the time to look.
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@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
11 Sep
That's the whole secret to it...being observant and taking the time to look around. I'm never disappointed, as I always find something interesting to see and/or take a closer look at.
@1creekgirl (17627)
• United States
11 Sep
I wonder if the wild cucumber grows anywhere now. Very interesting post....I've missed reading your discussions.
1 person likes this
@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
11 Sep
I've never seen it anywhere since. But I am going to make a point to be more observant in case I come across it again. And thanks!
1 person likes this
@bunnybon7 (42777)
• Holiday, Florida
11 Sep
I know what you mean. I don't recall ever seeing any of these but they are interesting. I remember my friends and I playing with some lovely wild red and pink flowers that when turned downward they looked like ladies long flowing dresses and we called them dancing ladies because we would make them dance around each other like a waltz also not eat them.
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@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
11 Sep
We had such imaginations in those days. I hope that hasn't been lost in the name of modern technology.
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@Starkinds (13597)
• India
11 Sep
It's edible
@Raelove (18292)
• Saco, Maine
11 Sep
Echinocystis lobata is an annual member of the Echinocystis genus in the family Cucurbitaceae.
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@Starkinds (13597)
• India
12 Sep
@Raelove thank for sharing