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What is a Horned Melon?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2016
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If you’re in the produce section of your grocery store, and you happen to glance at a spiny, orange-swirled fruit, it may be hard to avert your glance. This is the kiwano or horned melon, which was first grown in Africa and now is beginning to show up in grocery stores in the US. You’ll probably either love or hate this fruit, if you’re brave enough to give it a try.

The fruit is similarly sized to a medium papaya, and is slightly oval in shape, not counting its spikes or horns. It can’t be peeled, so you’ll need to at least halve the horned melon to get a look inside. You’re in for a big surprise when you cut this melon open. Instead of having a color similar to its exterior, the inner flesh is a deep, almost day-glo green. The fruit is studded with seeds, which can be somewhat challenging to remove.

As for the taste, people have said it resembles a cucumber, banana and a lime mixed together. Many don’t mind the flavor, but don’t like the texture. It’s somewhat gelatinous or jelly-like to fans, but those who don’t care for the horned melon may call it gross and slimy instead. How much you like it really depends on your tolerance of the texture. The taste is fairly mild and inoffensive.

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One way of eating it that appears to work well is to halve the melon and then cut it into “orange wedge” slices. You can use a spoon to scoop out the contents of each wedge. Some call the cucumber taste very refreshing and have suggested smoothies made with a mix of horned melon and other ingredients. Liquefying the fruit would help to reduce negatives regarding its texture, especially if it’s blended with other ingredients. Picking out the seeds is cited as the biggest challenge, since they are so numerous. Some merely eat the seeds with the fruit.

One interesting application of the horned melon is using the hard rinds as bowls, after scooping out the flesh. You could fill them with fruit salad, kiwano and lime custard, or horned melon sorbet. Some people just like the look of the fruit and use them for decorative purposes only. They do somewhat resemble a legless prehistoric animal, and their bright orange rind is attractive. They can keep for a long time without refrigeration and can be used in decorations much in the same way that gourds are used, though they won’t last quite as long as gourds.

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