About a month ago, I saw a strange fruit in the corner next to the squash and chiles in my local Save Mart Supermarket. It was only labeled with a sticker that simply said "Kiwano", and there was no price sticker. Intrigued, I grabbed two and placed them into my shopping basket. [IMG]
It took a couple minutes to ring up at the register because the cashier didn't know what to ring it up as. (Kiwano could not be found in the produce code lookup program.) The bagger suggested "horny melon" which resulted in a round of giggles. The produce manager identified it as a Horned Melon. After a few unsuccessful tries of looking up "Horned Melon" in the Melon, Fruits, Squash, and Specialty sections of the produce code lookup program, the cashier found it in the Exotic Foods listing. By the way, the PLU code for a Horned Melon or Kiwano is 4302. It turned out to be $4 each.
At this point, I was fully committed to bringing these strange fruits home, so I agreed to pay the $8. (I haven't yet told Tina how much I spent for what she later described as "gross looking".)
First, I did some reading on this strange fruit. Apparently, the fruit originated from southern and central Africa and were only grown in Australia and New Zealand in the early 1900's. Recently, this fruit (whose proper name is the "African Horned Melon") has been marketed around the world and some horned melon farms have started production in California. The name "Kiwano" is trademarked by New Zealanders John Kenneth Morris and Sharyn Ernesta Morris (according to the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office).
It seems that horned melons are often purchased for their novelty and distinctive look. According to a few websites they are bitter in taste. These sites generally recommend the fruit be used for decorative purposes (especially since they last for a couple months without noticeable degradation).
Tina disliked the look of the horned melon immediately because it reminded her of a particularly gross caterpillar variety she encountered as a young child. [IMG]
I cut my horned melons in two different directions to show the cross-sections from two different views. The first was cut from pole to pole. You can see that the seeds are interspersed among green juice vesicles. [IMG]
Sliced across the equator, you can see the vesicles are connected to three main positions on the mesocarp. It seems that at each of the three positions two closely set short stalks spread out to all the vesicles, so maybe it's actually six connection points. In any case, I think it's pretty. [IMG]
The texture of the flesh of the horned melon is best described as jelly like. It did not have the citrus texture (watery and refreshing) that I expected when I saw the vesicles. Instead, it was gooey and gelatinous (but not to the point of gumminess).
It tasted to me like a strong cucumber laced with lemon juice. I did not taste any bitterness. However, I didn't particularly like the flavor, and, in combination with the texture, I don't think I'd try this fruit again.
I did some more research online about this fruit and found a couple recommendations to serve this in a salad or as a garnish with roast meats (see Melissa's World Variety Produce). A really cool recommendation from Melissa's is to use the scooped out shell as a service for ice cream. Unfortunately, I didn't like the taste and Tina didn't like how they looked, so we did not pursue these uses. I'll leave it to my readers to comment on how they use horned melons and what their experiences have been. [IMG]
Posted: Sat Sep 24, 2005 1:48 am Post subject: What timing!
I almost bought one of these at the grocery a few days ago when I saw it, but decided against it because a) there was no price tag and b) I had no idea what it was. Glad you were brave enough to take the initiative.
Posted: Sat Sep 24, 2005 10:10 am Post subject: Great site!
I "StumbledUpon" your site this morning - as the wife of an engineer, I can't wait to show this to him! You've done a wonderful job. I know he will enjoy it as much as I have. Thanks so much for creating this resource, and belated congratulations on your recent marriage! I'm sure your wife is as happy with her engineer/chef as I am with mine!
Posted: Sun Sep 25, 2005 4:50 am Post subject: Gross
Many years ago my mom brought a couple of those home for my sisters and I to try, I was a kid. I thought it looked really cool and all so I went for it. It was probably the grossest fruit I ever tasted! I still think it is pretty and decoration is the only use I'd ever have for it!
Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 5:06 pm Post subject: Atom feed seems to be invalid
I've been following along with your site for a month or so, and I really enjoy the view you take towards it. Unfortunately (somewhere between your last two posts), something seems to have gone wrong with the feed, such that Thunderbird's RSS reader thinks it's invalid and won't update with new articles. Checking with the validator service (validator link) shows a few errors, which may be what's doing it.
It would be great to fix this up, if it's not too difficult...
Posted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 4:55 pm Post subject: I tried one of these....
....about 10 years ago when "strange" and "exotic" produce was difficult to come by (at least in VA). I saw it in the grocery store and snatched one up. I actually found it to be somewhat like eating green grapes, but not as sweet. I did not notice any bitterness.
Early this summer, I stumbled across a strange type of fruit at my local Asian market here in Atlanta. It wasn't labeled with a name, but had red skin and white, creamy looking flesh with lots of small black seeds. The flesh had the texture of a soft cantelope and the seeds were about the size of poppy seeds. I think this was even more expensive than the horned melons. It had a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Pleasant, but not extrordinary. Anybody know what it's called?
Posted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 5:02 pm Post subject: Wacky Fruit
If your interested in other strange fruit, try a star fruit or carambola. They have a very fresh taste and don't look like catapillars. Look for ones that are mostly yellow not green. If they have a little fringe of brown on the ridges thats okay, but avoid ones that have lots of brown.
Posted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 6:12 pm Post subject: Kiwano
I'm glad that you gabbed two and placed them into your basket and not into your... pants!!! Ohhh! look at those spikes!
Seriously though, Kiwano comes from the Cucumber family (not melon family). Originally from New Zealand, now it is widely grown in countries with mild climate. Cut in halves, you will see it contains full of soft seeds and orang/yellow flesh, a bit like the inside of a cucumber. It has a sharp, sweetish taste. Scoop out the seeds and flesh, add ice cubes and sugar to make a nice refreshing drink. Save some seeds and grow them yourself like you do cucumber plants. Quite easy, really. Bye!
Posted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 9:12 pm Post subject: Kiwano
I've seen these in the grocery store and never really knew what to make of them. I've been tempted to buy them just because they're a strange fruit, but now that I know they taste bad, I don't think I'll bother.
Does this fruit have a use outside of decoration and ice cream bowls? ;3
Joined: 10 May 2005 Posts: 1631 Location: Austin, TX (USA)
Posted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 12:19 am Post subject: Re: Kiwano
Seriously though, Kiwano comes from the Cucumber family (not melon family).
It is true that the african horned melon belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family (sometimes called gourd family), but this family also contains melons and cucumbers. In fact, african horned melons, honeydews, and cucumbers all belong to the same genus: Cucumis. (African horned melons are Cucumis metuliferus, honeydews and other melons are Cucumis melo, and Cucumbers are Cucumis sativus)
I was just thinking that with a bit of honey or sugar added, it might actually taste pretty good in a smoothie (as was previously suggested) -- especially since the colors work so well for Halloween (slime green and almost pumpkin orange). However, I feel its cost is a bit high for more than the occassional novelty or special occassion.