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Last updated: August 18, 2021
I recently stumbled upon kiwano fruit, otherwise known as kiwano melon, or horned melon. This odd looking fruit goes by many names, and its unusual, spiky appearance immediately caught my attention when I first saw it in a specialty grocery store.
Without knowing what it actually was, I decided to buy it so I could try it out. 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 nutritional benefits? Let’s find out more about the unique kiwano!
What Is Kiwano Fruit?
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 one 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 more 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 as if this fruit is struggling with an identity crisis, but the kiwano is actually 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 It 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 that is about right, but I would like to add cantaloupe into that mix.
I also found that the taste in general is not very sharp or sweet, it’s kind of neutral. And that’s 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 become much more prominent.
Other Names for Kiwano
The kiwano goes by many other names, depending on where you are based.
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.
Here are some other known names for the kiwano fruit:
- Kiwano melon
- Horned melon
- African horned melon
- African horned cucumber
- Jelly melon
- Spiked pear
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.
Have you even seen other names for kiwano? Let me know in the comments please, as I’d love to know!
How to Cut and Eat a Kiwano Melon
Cutting and eating a horned melon is easy, but to get the most out of the fruit, 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.
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!
Nutritional Profile and Benefits
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.
|Kiwano Melon Nutritional Profile (raw – 100 g)|
|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 low in calories and is rich in a lot of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium and vitamins A and C.
Also worth pointing out 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 that we all get exposed to. 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 healthy food and is 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 tasty and nutritious 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 three recipes for you to try out:
1. Refreshing Kiwano Melon Smoothie
A surprisingly refreshing and nutritious kiwano smoothie recipe, with spinach, blueberries, banana and ginger.
I do realize that kiwanos are expensive, but as a smoothie fanatic I really love trying out new recipes, even if the ingredients are a bit pricey.
Here’s the complete list of ingredients. Feel free to experiment with other ingredients of course, but I find that the below mix works really well.
- 1 kiwano fruit (flesh only)
- 1 large cup baby spinach
- 1 small cup blueberries
- 1 banana (fresh or frozen)
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 large cup water
- 1 small cup ice cubes
Blend it all together and you end up with a very refreshing smoothie that tastes delicious any time of day!
2. 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 refreshing recipe on Food Network.
3. 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!
Unfortunately it can be quite the challenge to find kiwano melons. But I do encourage you to keep an eye out for them, especially at big fruit markets or specialty grocery stores.
The unique flavors and texture of kiwano fruit should be enough reason to try it out at least once, and the nutritional benefits are an added bonus.
Do you love exotic fruits as much as I do? Let me know what you think of kiwano and other fruits you have tried in the comments below!