A pepino melon is a type of fruit native to Peru; although it tastes and looks like a melon, it is not a true melon, as it grows on an evergreen shrub, rather than vine. Today, this fruit is grown in subtropical climates in other regions of the world, especially California and New Zealand, and as a result, they are readily available in many areas while they are in season. For people who live in subtropical zones, these melons can be grown from cuttings; this plant is technically a perennial, although harsh weather can damage the plant.
These fruits are also sometimes known as melon pears, tree melons, bush melons, and mellowfruits, referencing the parent bush. They have a distinctive teardrop shape and a yellow rind which is streaked with green and purple when ripe. The taste of a pepino melon tends to be very sweet and juicy, with a faintly floral aroma; many people compare them to cantaloupes and honeydews, two well-known melon varieties.
Pepino melons come into season in the late fall to mid-spring, and, as with true melons, a number of things can be used to tell if a pepinon is ripe and juicy. The melon should feel heavy for its size, and sound hollow when tapped, and ideally the melon should be richly streaked with color. Do not be concerned by areas of roughness or streaks of liquid on the pepino melon; these indicate that the fruit will be especially sweet.
These fruits can be used in a variety of ways. Many people enjoy eating pepino melon out of hand, either in slices or straight out of the rind with the assistance of a spoon. The fruit can also be mixed with fruit salad and other dishes, blended into smoothies, or used in iced desserts. The sweet flavor also pairs well with lime juice, and adventurous cooks can try wrapping pepino in prosciutto for a twist on the classic melon and prosciutto.
This tropical fruit only keeps a few days off the plant, so it should be used as quickly as possible once it has been purchased. Keep pepino melon under refrigeration until it is used; if you slice the fruit and plan to finish it later, drizzle citrus juice over the slices and store them, covered, under refrigeration for two to three days.