Introducing the most unusual and striking fruit plantsages has ever grown! The kiwano jelly melon, also known as the African horned cucumber, is native to southern Africa, but it thrives in our central Florida climate and is reliable, productive grown in most U.S growing zones.
This unusual fruit is a member of the cucurbitaceae family and related to cucumbers. In observing the long slightly prickly vines you will clearly see a similarity to its more familiar cousins. The fruits have a fantastic appearance, covered in spines and bright yellow skinned, the inside is a bright green jelly! The seeds are almost indistinguishable from cucumber seeds once the green jelly is cleared from around them.
This eager growing vine is prized in its native range as one of the few sources of water during the dry season in the Kalahari desert. The inside of the fruit is typically scooped out and eaten fresh out of hand, or added to salads. The pulp is rich in a host of vitamins, from B6 to magnesium and vitamin C. In Zimbabwe the fruit is referred to as gaka and there you can find the pulp blended into a refreshing beverage simply mixed with a bit of water and sugar.
We chose to grow kiwano melons at our community garden in the educational beds. We fashioned a teepee out of bamboo and let the vines smother the structure. Within just a few months the bed was a lush green tent and beneath the thick mat of foliage were dozens of ripe kiwano melons. We harvested them by hand, making juice and saving the seeds to replant next year.
Growing a patch of kiwano melons is exceptionally easy. If you can grow a cucumber, you can grow a kiwano. The ideal Germination temperature is 68-95F, they are frost sensitive, so be sure to direct sow after all chances of frost have passed. The plants will eagerly and aggressively climb and cover a trellis, so be sure to give this plant ample room to travel and a fairly sturdy structure (¾ inch thick bamboo or stronger). Provide well drained soil and regular irrigation, although it's likely this plant is fairly drought tolerant. The fruit is ready when the skin turns bright yellow. Be sure to wear gloves when handling the fruit, their spines are not dangerous, but not pleasant to handle.
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