Horned melon is an oval-shaped fruit of African origin which is characterized by several horns growing on its surface. The fruit known by various names with African horned melon or cucumber, hedged gourd, kiwano, melano, English melon, Cherie and jelly melon, being the most popular ones. The colloquial term for this vine-based, green-colored fruit is Blowfish Fruit in the Souteastern part of United States. It is a member of the cucumber/ melon family and is known as Cucumis metuliferus botanically.
The spikes or horns give it a decorative look making it effective as a garnish or part of food decorations. However, the fruit is usually grown for its flesh, which is similar to the banana in taste with a tangy note akin to that of a lemon. The skin of the fruit is covered with a gelatinous substance and is rich in Vitamin C. The ripe fruit is usually consumed raw with the pulp being eaten and the seeds discarded. The immature fruit is used for cooking purposes. The peel is also consumed in certain areas.
The fruit is indigenous to Africa, but is now grown across the world particularly in California, Australia, New Zealand and Chile. Kiwano is the registered term for the fruit that is imported into the United States from New Zealand by Prinut Inc.
Horned Melon Types
- Gakachika or Gaka- This is a variety that grows in the bushes and fields of Zimbabwe. It is usually eaten as a fruit and used in salads when ripe. The green and immature form is used as a vegetable.
- Unhorned Variety- This is very similar to the horned melon although it cannot be used for decoration purposes since it lacks the characteristic spikes. Its taste is similar to that of a cucumber or zucchini.
Culinary Uses of Kiwano
The flesh of the ripe fruit is usually served with a sprinkling of sugar and salt. The raw fruit is used in soups, salads and stews. Some of the popular recipes for the jelly melons are:-
- Melono –Yogurt Mousse- A mousse that is prepared by blending the melon and lime juice along with agar-agar. Egg white is folded into a mixture of the juice and yogurt, which is chilled before serving.
- Horned Cucumber Sauce- This is a blend of the melon pulp, lime juice, cumin, oil and garlic which is processed in a blender and served as a topping on grilled beef.
- Minty Blowfish-This is a cocktail prepared by shaking horned melon juice, gin and champagne together, and served with crushed ice.
The horned melon shell is frequently used for serving the dishes prepared with the pulp or juice of the fruit.