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FOOD FUN: Horned Melon or Kiwano

Native to the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa, and once commercially grown only in New Zealand (Kiwano® is a trademark of New Zealand growers), Kiwano melons are now grown in California and Mississippi as well as well as Africa, Australia and Chile. So you may be seeing more of them soon.

The horned melon, Cucumis metuliferus, goes by a variety of names: African horned cucumber or melon, blowfish fruit, English tomato, hedged gourd, jelly melon, kiwano and melano. The horns are called spines by botanists.

The fruit is an annual vine in the cucumber and melon family, Cucurbitaceae, which also includes pumpkin and the other squash.

The exotic-looking, the spiky, orange colored shells contain a soft, juicy bright green seed-studded flesh. The flesh isn’t sweet, but more of a cross between a cucumber and a zucchini. The seeds are edible, like cucumber seeds. Some people eat the peel, which is very rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber.

   
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Kiwano, or horned melon. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

 
BUYING TIPS

Look for horned melon in specialty-food markets and some upscale supermarkets. The fruit should range in length from 3 to 5 inches and not have any bruises or soft spots. When ripe, the melon will have a bright orange shell.

Horned melon is available year-round but its peak season is summer. California-grown varieties are available now; in the winter, they’ll come from New Zealand, where the seasons are opposite.

 

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Horned melon or Kiwano. Photo courtesy Marx Foods.
  HOW TO SERVE KIWANO, HORNED MELON

You can buy horned melons at Melissas.com. If you’re lucky to come across them in the flesh, don’t hesitate to buy and try.

Once peeled, they can be added to fruit salads or green salad. Sliced unpeeled, they can be used as a garnish. Here are some popular uses:

  • Enjoy the melon as a hand fruit, just by squeezing a cut half into your mouth. You can enhance the flavor with small amount of salt or sugar.
  • You can cut the melon in half and serve the jelly-like flesh from the shell; or scoop out the flesh for other uses and repurpose the shells as fun serving bowls for desserts, ice cream/sorbet, sides and soups.
  • Garnish roasted meat, like steaks or chops, instead of topping rich with butter. Sprinkle some kiwano kernels on top of the meat before serving for an exotic and tangy flavor highlight.
  • Make Kiwano salsa. Seed the melon into a bowl and mix it with the juice of one lime, a clove of garlic, two tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro, a chopped green onion (scallion) or equivalent sweet, onion, 1/4 teaspoon cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Add a small amount of olive oil to bind the mixture and use the salsa as a garnish for meat, grilled vegetables, or exotic nachos.
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    For Beverages

  • Add to smoothies.
  • Garnish cocktails: Sprinkle a few green kernels into a champagne flute or add an unpeeled slice to a gin and tonic instead of a lime slice.
  • Make the Intergalactic Nebula, a recipe we found on WikiHow. Remove the Kiwano melon seeds and place in a cup. Fill the cup with sparkling red grape juice cocktail 3/4 of the way to the top of the cup. With the remainder space, add half and half (optional), Serve in layers for the best look before stirring.
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    Play around, have fun with kiwano and tell us how you like it!
      




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