African horned melon

Kiwano or African horned melon: the strange tropical fruit that tastes like cucumber and banana

African horned melon, Its flavour is delicate and the taste is reminiscent of a mix between banana and cucumber: it is kiwano, a colourful tropical fruit also known as African horned melon or African horned cucumber. Increasingly present also in western markets, kiwano has many useful beneficial properties and can be used in cooking raw or cooked. Let’s find out all about this particular fruit.

A particular fruit, with a yellow exterior studded with small horns and an intense green interior, almost like that of kiwi: it is the kiwano, an exotic fruit that appears more and more often on the stalls of our markets. Also called African horned cucumber or African horned melon, kiwano is a fruit belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family, the same as melon, pumpkin, zucchini and cucumbers. Due to its internal resemblance to the kiwi, this fruit was renamed kiwano during the 1930s, when it began to be imported to Australia and New Zealand. Here’s where kiwano (African horned melon) comes from, what it tastes like, what its benefits are and how to use it in cooking.

Kiwano, the identikit of the exotic fruit

The kiwano (African horned melon) belongs to the Cucumis metuliferus species, of the Cucurbitaceae family, an African climbing plant that is finding more and more space even in the markets of Western countries.

A plant that bears fruit both in December and in summer and which produces these curious “horned” fruits. Unlike what you might think, kiwano has a delicate and slightly watery flavour, with a taste reminiscent of a mix of cucumber and banana and a slightly sweet and sour aftertaste. A typical fruit of the area between South Africa and tropical Africa, which today is marketed in several countries thanks to the ease with which it is grown, its speed of growth and its extraordinary ability to adapt to different types of climate.

Properties and benefits of kiwano

Rich in water and low in calories (50kcal per 100 grams of product), kiwano has a fair amount of carbohydrates and vitamins: among these, in particular, vitamin C. It is very rich in mineral salts, especially iron and magnesium, but it is also low in sodium: ideal for those who have to keep blood pressure under control. Furthermore, kiwano boasts a high quantity of beta-carotene in kiwano, a very important antioxidant that helps slow down premature aging, protecting especially skin, eyes and hair, but also good quantities of oleic and linoleic acid, especially in the seeds. As for its benefits, it is important to remember that kiwano:

it has great antioxidant properties, thanks to the polyphenols it contains: important substances to defend us from any degenerative pathologies;

performs antiviral and antimicrobial functions. The ability of the plant to be very resistant to viruses, in fact, is reflected in the properties of the fruit: it is therefore important to protect us from bacteria and infections and increase the capabilities of our immune system;

protects and stimulates the gastrointestinal system, thanks to the fibers it contains. In particular, the extract of the kiwano pulp has shown good ability to prevent the formation of ulcers;

it is capable of carrying out a purifying and detoxifying action, thanks to the high water content. Furthermore, its low calorie intake makes it ideal for those who follow low-calorie diets and for sportsmen.

How African horned melon is used in cooking

In Africa, kiwano (African horned melon) is consumed whole, with all the peel, roasted or boiled together with other vegetables: the best option, since most of the nutrients are deposited on the peel. The peel, in fact, can be eaten, but only after it is cooked: this is where we find the greatest concentration of vitamin C and fibre. Even the seeds, when the fruit is ripe, can be eaten with serenity.

In any case, in the West the kiwano is peeled: when you do it, it is good to use protective gloves to avoid prickling. Once peeled, extracting the pulp is very simple: you can simply add it to a fresh salad or fruit salad; alternatively, you can eat it together with yoghurt or simply spread on bread and seasoned with salt, lemon and oil, or with sugar.

If you want to use it in a real preparation, we still suggest not to cook it, so as not to spoil the delicacy of its flavour. You can try to combine it with fish and shellfish, which it will enhance the marine notes: it is ideal to use as a pairing with a salmon or tuna tartare, or in a ceviche, together with fish and vegetables of various kinds.

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