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Kiwano (Horned Melon) Health Benefits – Discover This Spiky Tropical Fruit

Ever since I discovered dragon fruit, I’ve been on the hunt for other tropical fruits that you won’t easily find in the major supermarkets. Apples and oranges are great, but sometimes we just want to try something different.

So I recently stumbled upon kiwano fruit, also known as kiwano melon, or horned melon. Well, this odd looking fruit goes by many names, and its unusual appearance caught my attention when I saw it in an exotic fruit shop I had never been to.

Without knowing what it actually was, I decided to buy it. I soon found out it was a horned melon and I must say that I was quite surprised by the taste of it.

So what exactly is this weird looking kiwano melon and how can we best cut and eat it? And what are some of the health benefits?

 
 
 

What Is Kiwano, aka Horned Melon?

The kiwano melon is a fascinating little piece of fruit. Yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable. The spiky, yellow/orange skin of horned melons will immediately grab your attention. And when you cut them open, the soft and bright green flesh may surprise you even more.

The fruit is actually native to southern and central Africa, but has also been grown in New Zealand, Australia and parts of the USA.

As you can see in the image below, the inside of this fruit looks very similar to that of a cucumber. But the outside looks more like a spiky melon. So what is kiwano? A cucumber, a melon, or both? It seems this fruit is battling with an identity crisis, but the kiwano melon is officially a member of the melon as well as of the cucumber family.

Kiwano health benefits: horned melon sliced in two

Kiwano: cucumber, melon, or both?

The inside of a kiwano is interesting. You’ll notice that it’s full of seeds, and these seeds are edible. The texture around the seeds is like a green jelly which may taste weird the first time you eat it.

What Does Horned Melon Taste Like?

So what does horned melon taste like? The general opinion is that it tastes like a mix of cucumber, zucchini, kiwifruit and banana. I would say that’s about right but I would like to add cantaloupe into this mix.

I also found that the taste in general is not very sharp or sweet, which is good so it won’t be too much of a shock when you have it for the first time. When it’s very ripe though, the banana flavor will start to take over control.

Other Names for Horned Melon

Kiwano goes by many other names, depending on where you are. The weird looks of this fruit and with the characteristics of cucumber and melon mixed together, it should be no surprise that the kiwano melon has been given many exciting names.

Kiwano is also known as African horned melon, jelly melon, African horned cucumber, melano, and they have even been called spiked pears. So if you’re on the hunt for kiwano melons and you see any of these names, then you’ve probably found the right fruit.

Kiwano health benefits: a horned melon cut in half

How to Cut and Eat a Horned Melon

Cutting and eating a horned melon is easy, but to make the most of it, the following tips may come in handy.

Make sure you choose a ripe kiwano, one that is not too hard (and not too soft either) and has an orange color rather than yellow/green. Also, make sure you wash the fruit before cutting to avoid getting your knife dirty or contaminated.

You can “drink” a kiwano melon by simply cutting it in half and squeeze the contents of one half into your mouth. The seeds can also be consumed so you can drink everything that you can squeeze out.

The more common way to eat a kiwano melon is to cut it in half and then scoop out bits and pieces with a spoon. Do the scooping on a clean surface so you can also eat the left-overs that you may spill.

The seeds and jelly like flesh of kiwano melons are great ingredients for fruit salads. The juice also does very well in cocktails. You’ll have your guests wondering what’s in their drinks! And of course, kiwano melons can easily be added to green smoothies as well. But to be honest, because they are so unique and also a bit pricey, I prefer to simply eat a kiwano melon by itself to better enjoy its unique flavors.

Oh and don’t just throw the shells out. You can use the hollow shells as a fun way to serve desserts!

Here is a fun video that will show you how to cut and eat a kiwano melon:

 

Kiwano Health Benefits and Nutritional Profile

Kiwano melon has quite a rich nutritional profile with a variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Let’s have a look at the most important and most abundant nutrients in kiwano melon.

Kiwano Melon Nutritional Profile

 
Nutrient/Content (value per 100 g)
Water: 88.97 g
Energy: 44 kcal
Protein: 1.78 g
Fat: 1.26 g
Carbohydrates: 7.56 g
 
Minerals
Potassium: 123 mg
Magnesium: 40 mg
Phosphorus: 37 mg
Calcium: 13 mg
Iron: 1.13 mg
 
Vitamins
Vitamin A (mcg RAE): 7 μg
Vitamin A (IU): 147 IU
Vitamin C: 5.3 mg
Folate (Vitamin B9): 3 μg
 
Source: USDA

As you can see, a kiwano melon is very watery, is very low in calories and is rich in a lot of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium and vitamins A and C.

Just like with most fruits, kiwano melon is rich in antioxidants (for example through Vitamin A with carotenoids and beta-carotene, and vitamin C).

Antioxidants are crucial for our health, protecting our bodies against cell damage caused by free radicals. It will help prevent disease and slow down the aging process. Vitamin A is also good for the eyes.

 
 

Magnesium is also a very important mineral, used by almost every single organ in our body, especially our heart and kidneys. And calcium promotes good bone health and will help prevent conditions such as osteoporosis.

Although the kiwano fruit is indeed a very healthy food, high in important nutrients, it’s certainly not the most nutrient-dense type of fruit out there. Kiwifruit for example is richer in nutrients, especially vitamin C and calcium. But that doesn’t take away the fact that the kiwano fruit is a very tasty alternative to the usual fruits we eat every day.

Horned melon: spiky fruit

Horned melon – spiky fruit!

 

Delicious Horned Melon Recipes

Believe it or not, there are actually some really nice recipes out there with kiwano fruit in it. Here are two recipes that I really like:

1. Grilled Beef with Horned Melon Sauce

The sauce is made with kiwano pulp, lime juice, green onion, cumin and garlic, yummy! The sauce is spooned over grilled lean beef, lettuce and cucumber.

You can find this delicious recipe on Food Network.

2. Kiwano & Lime Vinaigrette

A simple salad dressing using fresh kiwano juice, extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, lime juice, salt and black pepper. Only takes 5 minutes to prepare.

Check it out on About Food.

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Final Thoughts on Kiwano Fruit

Unfortunately horned melon can be quite hard to find. And some of us may actually never have the pleasure of trying this somewhat peculiar fruit. But I do encourage you to keep an eye out for horned melons, especially at big fruit markets or specialty grocery stores. Its unique taste and texture, and great health benefits should be enough reason to try it at least once.

Because the kiwano melon is not always readily available, the price can be somewhat hefty. If you do succeed to get your hands on this spiky yellow fruit, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Do you love exotic fruits and would like to see more? Check out my list of 20 exotic fruits that you should try at least once in your life!

Leave a comment below 8 comments
Anita - January 18, 2016

It’s a $5 cucumber!

Reply
Katrina Snow - September 6, 2016

Hi Donna,

Thanks for the info on the horned melon! I bought one a week ago at the grocery store because it just looked so funky. Of course, then I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I dove in today and tried half the goopy middle in a smoothie. It has some texture due to the seeds, and a bit of a cucumber vibe, but it’s tasty!

Katrina

Reply
    Donna H. - September 7, 2016

    Glad you liked it, Katrina 🙂

    Reply
      peter - October 18, 2016

      Is the Kiwano skin edible? I blended everything together with seeds and skin.

      Reply
        Donna H. - October 25, 2016

        Hi Peter, I personally wouldn’t eat the skin, but I couldn’t find any sources that say the skin is toxic so I am guessing it should be fine.

        Reply
Peter - March 2, 2017

I juiced the thing. Peel and all in my masticating omega juicer. Juice came out sour but tasty. $4 a pop here in Arizona.

Reply
Amos - March 17, 2017

You are all missing out on the best part! Picked at about 2/3rds full size when the seeds are still soft they make excellent cucumbers. Peel and dice into a salad. I do scoop out and sweeten the ripe fruit, but this can’t begin to compare to their usefulness as a vegetable. After all if you leave normal cucumbers on the vine they turn orange and sour too. They are incredibly productive with one vine covering about 100 square feet and producing 6-8 cucumbers per week when harvested young. They smother any weed in their path. They do not need watering once established and will often plant themselves and produce without any help at all. My personal favorite edible plant hands down.

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