The Kiwano: Melon, Cuke, or Total Waste of Money?


The kiwano (here called by its proprietary name of “cuke-asaurus”) is beguiling in its fever-yellow appearance.

Native to Africa, but now grown in California and Washington, the kiwano (other names: horned melon, jolly melon, hedged gourd, African horned cucumber, blowfish fruit, British tomato, and melano) is colored yellow and covered with the kind of sharp spines you find on rose stems.

The kiwano can be eaten unripe or ripe. When unripe, the flesh is something like a cucumber; when ripe (and bright green), it tastes more like a melon, according to some observers, with flavor notes of banana and lemon. Though ripe, ours still tasted like a cucumber, except each semi-crunchy seed was embedded in wobbly green goo. More interesting than good.

The plant, Cucumis metuliferus, is an annual vine. To eat it, slice in half lengthwise, scoop out the pulp with a spoon, and eat the green, seedy flesh raw. The pulp can also be used in soups, although it sounds like a waste of a rather expensive fruit.

Get it for a limited time, priced at $6.49 per pound, at the Manhattan Fruit Exchange in the Chelsea Market (Tenth Avenue and 15th Street), and other places around town. One melon weighs approximately two-thirds of a pound, and the fruit is probably best used for ornamental purposes.

The interior is mainly big seeds with jellylike jackets.