Have you heard of kiwano melon? This fruit, sometimes called horned melon or jelly melon, is beautiful to behold but a bit perplexing, so we’ll break down how it tastes, how to use and eat it, and links to recipes. Already widely available in parts of Australia, New Zealand, and Africa, it’s gaining traction in the U.S as well.
In addition to the names mentioned above, kiwano (Cucumis metuliferus) has also been called African horned cucumber. The best handle of all is “blowfish fruit” — compare it to the actual spiky fish and you’ll see the resemblance!
Background and seasonality
From Melissa’s Produce: “For over 3,000 years, this African horned melon has been fascinating the produce world. The spiky, golden-orange shell encases a soft, succulent, seed-filled emerald green interior. Once grown only in New Zealand, Melissa’s Kiwano Melons are now grown in California as well.
Consumers are drawn to these intriguing, yet versatile tropical fruits whose look easily captures attention. The spiky, orange shells of kiwano melons encase a soft, succulent bright green flesh with edible seeds. No need to refrigerate. Ripe horned melons will have a bright orange shell. Avoid any bruising or soft spots.”
Kiwanos are popping up in more groceries and specialty food shops, but if you can’t find them, Melissa’s Produce is a good source for ordering online (they come in packs of 6), available year round.
What does kiwano melon taste like?
One thing is for sure; it’s unlike most any other melon you’ve had, so don’t go into it expecting anything like a cantaloupe or honeydew!
The exterior, non-edible rind of the Kiwano is a vivid yellow-orange (the more orange, the riper it is). The flavor of its green interior isn’t easy to describe, but it’s possibly closest to cucumber, but seedier and with a more jelly-like consistency. As it ripens it becomes just slightly sweeter; it’s been described as having hint of banana and kiwifruit.
As Enzed Exotics describes it: “The closest description we’ve come up with for the flavor is a refreshing mix of banana, passionfruit and lime. Other people say they can taste kiwi or even green grapes.”
How to prep & store
A cardinal rule seems to be not to refrigerate kiwanos — seems like that causes them to lose flavor. So make sure not to buy more than you can use, and use them as soon as they’re ripe (the golden exterior becomes more of an orange color when fully ripe. However, you can freeze the pulp, or if it’s less ripe, chunks of the flesh. Scoop ripe kiwano out of the rind and pack in an airtight container to freeze.
The easiest thing to do is to simply cut kiwano melon in half lengthwise and squeeze out the jelly-like bright green contents (or scoop it out with a spoon). The seeds, though flavorless, are pretty soft and edible.
You can also use a knife to go around the edges of the interior of the melon, once it’s cut in half, to loosen the seedy flesh; cut away sections of firmer melons to use in recipes or to blend into drinks. Fully ripe melons will be pretty liquidy when scooped out.
Kiwano melons might look exotic, but they’re not a tropical fruit, and apparently, are fairly easy to grow — in some ways, better suited for the home garden than for large-scale production. Here’s some great info on growing at Gardening Know How.
This unusual fruit provides an array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, though it would be a stretch to call it a super food. Because it’s high in water content, it’s low in calories, carbs, and fat. It’s particularly rich in iron, magnesium, and Vitamin C. See the full nutrition facts here.
How to use kiwano melon
Cocktails & Mocktails
Whether you imbibe or not, kiwanos add an intriguing note to cocktails and mocktails. Here are a few. You can save a few thin slices from the narrower ends to create a dramatic garnish.
Smoothies, Juices, & Infused Water
If you have a juicer, this fruit will yield a decent amount since it’s so high in water content. And a good blender (it doesn’t necessarily have to be the high-speed kind) will make quick work of the soft seeds and pulp.
Infused water: simply add a few chunks of kiwano to a quart of water in a bottle and let sit for a few hours in the fridge before drinking.
- Kiwano and Blood Orange Smoothie
- Exotic Kiwano Smoothie
- Kiwano Strawberry Smoothie
- Refreshing Kiwano Fruit Smoothie
Enzed Exotics says that this is one of their favorite ways to use kiwano “And it comes with a little warning: these fresh salsas are completely addictive…We’ve got two recipes that time and again are total hits when entertaining.” Both can be used as dips with tortilla chips, or to top tacos, nachos, etc.
Fruit Salads, Savory Salads, & Dressings
Scoop out and chop kiwano pulp from firmer melons (perhaps a little underripe) and add as an offbeat element to fruit salads as well as savory salads, particularly those featuring cucumber or quinoa.
If your melons are too ripe to be cut into chunks, you can add the more liquidy pulp, seeds and all, to blended salad dressings that feature parsley or other herbs. Or, try Melissa’s kiwano-infused vinaigrette.
Kiwano Margarita Ice Pops (Melissa’s Produce)
Kiwano Ice Pops, Sorbets, & Ice Cream
Whirl kiwano pulp into sorbets and ice cream, or use small chunks to make eye-popping pops.
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