How to Grow Kiwano

Before I start planning for next year, I want to first do a quick summary of some of the more exciting and unusual crops that I’ve grown this year. As possibly the weirdest, I’m going to start with alien space eggs or Kiwano.

What is it?

Kiwano (Cucumis Metuliferus) is known by a variety of different names including Jelly Melon, African Horned Melon and Melano and is native to South America. When ripe the fruit is a wonderfully bright yellow-orange colour with an almost luminous lime green jellied flesh inside. As a testament to its exotic appearance, it was even featured in an episode of Star Trek – Deep Space Nine!

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How to Grow it?

As a relative of both Cucumbers and Melons, Kiwanos are very straightforward to grow and require no special considerations. I treated all my Kiwano plants this year the same as I would Melons and gave them plenty of space to spread out in the greenhouse with some trellis used to support the vines. Undoubtedly owing to the spiny nature of both the vines and the fruit, they were unbothered by pests and generally seemed resilient.

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Unripe Kiwano

As the fruits ripen they will turn from a deep green colour to a vibrant yellow-orange colour when they are fully ripe. Only a couple of my fruits ripened on the plant before temperatures started to drop in the greenhouse. However, they seem to ripen perfectly well off the plant and all my fruit eventually ripened completely after a couple of weeks left somewhere warm indoors. From my three plants, I ended up with a total of eighteen Kiwanos each roughly the size of a small melon.

What does it taste like?

The gelatinous green flesh inside the fruit has a mild citrus flavour with what I’d describe as sort of melon and banana sweetness to it as well. It’s certainly not an unpleasant taste and not like any other fruit I’ve had before. Much like a pomegranate, the only problem is that the lovely flesh is surrounding small hard (but edible) seeds which makes eating it not the most straightforward. Personally, I found it easiest to scoop out small chunks of flesh using a spoon but there is an entire WikiHow page devoted to different Kiwano eating methods.

What can you do with it?

To be honest, as they were tasty enough I ate the vast majority of my Kiwano harvest as fruits by themselves. However, other people have used them as cocktail ingredients, in salads and in sorbets.

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