Strange fruit

This evening, as dessert to follow on from my grilled mackerel, olive pave and salad, I’ve had my first ever kiwano. It seems the kiwano is a fruit that’s been hijacked by the New Zealanders, much like the kiwi fruit. Actinidia chinensis, the plant that gives us kiwi fruit is, as the name suggests, a native of China, not New Zealand, and was originally known as Chinese Gooseberry. I guess the name was changed as gooseberries are not a popular fruit these days, more’s the pity.

The kiwano is actually a native of central and southern Africa, where it is called the Horned Cucumber or Horned Melon. It is the fruit of Cucumis metuliferus, which indicates that it is more closely related to cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) than melons (watermelon is a member of the more distantly related genus Citrullus).

If you cut it lengthways, the centre of it looks just like an odd-shaped cucumber cut along its length. It’s quite watery and juicy, but when you stick your spoon into it you see the difference. One of the names for this fruit is Jelly Melon, but I reckon Tapioca Melon or Frogspawn Melon might be more appropriate. Each seed is in a small cell of green jellyish flesh, and spooning it into your mouth is a decidedly sensual experience.

But this is much more of a textural food than a tasty food – the flavour is very subtle, milder and more tart than a cucumber, perhaps with a hint of melon or even lime as well. I don’t think you’d want to eat this with anything else as the flavour would be completely smothered by most other foods. It might be fun to add the pulp to a fruit salad though, purely for the texture.

More fruit reviews coming soon!

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