Kiwano (Horned Melon) Health Benefits – Discover This Spiky Tropical Fruit
Ever since I discovered dragon fruit, I have 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, spiky appearance immediately caught my attention when I first saw it in an exotic fruit shop I had never been to before.
Without knowing what it actually was, I decided to buy it. After a bit of researching, I found out it was a horned melon. And I must say that I was quite surprised by its flavors and texture.
So what exactly is this weird looking fruit with spikes and how can we best cut and eat it? And what are some of the health benefits? Let’s find out more about the very unique kiwano!
What Is Kiwano, aka Horned Melon?
The kiwano is indeed a fascinating little piece of fruit. Yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable. The spiky, yellow/orange skin of kiwano 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 in recent times.
As you can see in the image below, the inside of this fruit looks very similar to the inside 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 struggling with an identity crisis, but the kiwano is officially a member of the melon family as well as of the cucumber family.
The inside of the fruit is interesting. You’ll notice that it’s full of seeds, and these seeds are actually edible. The texture around the seeds is like a green jelly, which may taste kind of 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 the mix.
I also found that the taste in general is not very sharp or sweet, it’s kind of neutral. This is good in a way, as it won’t be too much of a shock when you eat it for the first time. When it’s very ripe though, the banana flavors will start taking over control.
Other Names for Horned Melon
The 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.
The scientific name for the kiwano fruit is Cucumis Metuliferus. Cucumis is a a reference to the cucumber and melon family, while metuliferus is a Latin word that refers to the spikes on the fruit.
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 a kiwano melon and you see any of these names, then you’ve probably found the right fruit.
How to Cut and Eat a Kiwano Fruit
Cutting and eating a horned melon is easy, but to make the most of it, the following tips may come in handy.
The first thing you should do is make sure you choose a ripe kiwano. A ripe one typically is not too hard (and not too soft either) and has an orange color rather than yellow or green.
Also, make sure you properly wash the fruit before cutting to avoid getting your knife dirty or contaminated.
You can “drink” a kiwano melon by cutting it in half and then squeeze the contents of one half into your mouth. The seeds can also be consumed so you can basically drink everything that you can squeeze out of the fruit.
However, the more common way to eat this fruit is to cut it in half and then scoop out bits and pieces with a spoon. Do the cutting and scooping on a clean cutting board so you can also eat the left-overs that you may spill.
Check out this fun video that shows how to cut and eat a kiwano melon:
The seeds and jelly-like flesh of kiwano melons are excellent 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. That’s what I’ve done many times to add extra flavors to my smoothies.
But to be honest, because they are so unique and also a bit pricey, I prefer to simply eat a kiwano melon by itself. That way I can best 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!
Kiwano Health Benefits and Nutritional Profile
Kiwano melon has quite a rich nutritional profile boasting a variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Let’s have a look at the most important and most abundant nutrients that exist in kiwano melons.
Water: 88.97 g
Energy: 44 kcal
Protein: 1.78 g
Fat: 1.26 g
Carbohydrates: 7.56 g
Potassium: 123 mg
Magnesium: 40 mg
Phosphorus: 37 mg
Calcium: 13 mg
Iron: 1.13 mg
Vitamin A (mcg RAE): 7 μg
Vitamin A (IU): 147 IU
Vitamin C: 5.3 mg
Folate (Vitamin B9): 3 μg
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.
Also worth noting is the relatively high protein content. This is because the kiwano has lots of protein-rich seeds.
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.
Delicious Kiwano Fruit Recipes
Believe it or not, there are actually some really nice recipes out there with kiwano fruit as a core ingredient. Here are two recipes that I really like:
1. Grilled Beef with Horned Melon Sauce
A delicious and unique recipe for a sauce to go with beef. The sauce is made with kiwano pulp, lime juice, green onion, cumin and garlic, mixed together in a blender or food processor.
Once blended into a nice and creamy texture, the sauce can be spooned evenly over grilled lean beef, lettuce and cucumber.
You can find this delicious recipe on Food Network.
2. Kiwano Sorbet
We all love a refreshing sorbet, especially on a warm summer’s day, but have you ever thought of kiwano sorbet?
This delicious recipe over at Peaceful Dumpling is definitely worth a try. It’s a rather simple recipe with 1 kiwano fruit, 2 bananas, 1 apple, coconut sugar and water.
You will need a decent blender to process it all into one super tasty and nutritious sorbet.
Final Thoughts on Kiwano Fruit
Unfortunately it can be quite challenging to find horned melons. But I do encourage you to keep an eye out for them, especially at big fruit markets or specialty grocery stores.
The unique taste and texture of kiwano fruit should be enough reason to try it out at least once. And not to mention the health benefits!
Because the kiwano is not always readily available, the price tag can be somewhat hefty. But if you do succeed to find and buy one, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Do you love exotic fruits as much as I do and would like to see more? Check out my list of 20 exotic fruits that you should try at least once in your life!