Feeling Horny? Well this fruit is for you!
The African horned melon (Cucumis metuliferus) is an annual vine, which looks like an oval melon with horned-like spikes. This strange fruit originates from Africa (funny about that), but really came from my front garden. They are about the size of an apple cucumber, and belongs to the cucumber and melon family.
I managed to buy the seeds from the Diggers Club catalogue, and planted the seeds in November last year. I had 3 seeds germinate out of about 10 I planted, and transplanted them when the first true leaves were showing. The vine grew to about 2 metres long, and I harvested these 7 fruit just from one vine today. According to Wikipedia the fruit is supposed to be bright yellow or orange when ripe, but can be eaten when mature green like these ones. They will ripen like bananas once picked.
This is what the vine looks like. Click picture to enlarge.
Bit of a rambling vine with small leaves, and quite drought tolerant. I watered them once a week during summer with grey water from the washing machine, and there are still about 10-12 more fruit on the other two vines. I want to see if the flavour changes when the vine dies over winter (if it does).
So what does it taste like? Well, I thought it tasted a bit like a just ripe banana crossed with a cucumber and a lemon. A different sort of taste, with it less sour than a passion fruit and the sweetness being very subtle. It was great as a snack and I ate it like a kiwi fruit with a teaspoon. My girls thought it was too sour, and thought it resembled snot and have hence titled it the green snot fruit. They are a funny lot! The seeds are covered with a gel like substance a bit like a pomegranate. They would probably be easy to juice.
The horns are spiky to touch and I picked them with gloves on. Not cactus like spikes, but enough to hurt you if you were not careful.
Someone else liked them as well. I accidentally dropped some of the seeds on the floor and Holly lapped them up and begged for more. Is nothing sacred?
The fruit is marketed as the Kiwano in Japan and the US, and grown in New Zealand and California and from what I can tell are about USD$10 each! It is eaten, but apparently are used mostly for decoration and I can see why. The fruit looks like it came from an alien planet.
Would I grow them again? In a heartbeat. They are so low maintenance and would probably climb a trellis even though I let them sprawl on the ground. They are an unusual fruit, but a good talking point in any organic food garden. If you can grow cucumbers then you can grow the African horned melon. I am going to try more crazy looking fruit again next year.