Friday, February 5, 2010

How to: Grow horned melon


Cucumis metuliferus is more commonly referred to as kiwano, horned cucumber, and horned melon. Its names suit its appearance; a melon-like fruit with large spikes all over. It's a vine native to Africa that bears spiny edible fruits. It is in the cucumber (Cucurbitaceae) family and doesn't look too far off from a cucumber. This is an annual plant that is great for growing in the garden, especially against a fence to let it climb. The plant can't survive cold temperatures so it is best grown as a summer crop. If planting outside, the seeds should be sown after the last frost or in spring. These don't make good house plants because being an annual, they demand a lot more sunlight than a window can provide. While the plant itself isn't very aesthetically pleasing, the fruits are. They usually have red, yellow, and green streaks.

Where can you buy horned melons? I would recommend high-end grocery stores, or specialty grocers that carry a wide variety of fruits. I am unaware of anywhere that sells seeds or plants so your best bet is to buy a fruit and plant the seeds.

Not many people like the taste of horned melons, but I would recommend that you at least try one. To eat a horned melon, you should cut it in half and scoop out the inside with a spoon. You will notice that the fruit has hundreds of jelly-like portions, inside of which you will find a seed. The seeds are edible, but if you want to try your hand at planting one, you must first remove it from the surrounding gelatin (not as easy as it sounds). If you dislike the taste, try sprinkling some sugar on it.
This picture is a good example of the horned melon's climbing potential. You should allow the plant to climb up a trellis or fence rather than spread out on the ground. This will protect your fruits, save space and make harvesting easier.


9 comments:

  1. hi just discovered your blog and really enjoyed reading it! a question - I've planted my first ever horned melons about two weeks ago and they are now about 2" tall with first true leaves appearing, how long does it take until they fruit? I live in the caribbean thanks! M

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  2. I wish I knew the answer to your question, but there are just too many variables. Being an annual and belonging to the genus cucumis, I would expect at minimum the germination to harvest time to be about 2 months. Last year my horned melons took about 4 months until I got some fruit, but in the end it's mostly environmental factors at play. Be sure they are getting a lot of sun and be patient. Good luck!

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  3. Hi. I found a horned melon plant growing against a nearby fence in South Miami. Spiky Orange with an interior red jelly. I picked some for seeds to plant next spring. I washed them in a colander to remove the jelly. Then dried them. Hope I have some luck. Will check back in when I plant them. I already have luck with loofahs so I think I will have luck with this too!

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  4. when is it harvested

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  5. In my experience it takes at least 2 months for the fruits to develop but depending on conditions it may take even longer for the fruits to ripen and turn orange.

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  6. If the green fruit were to accidentally fall off the vine when you pick up the fruit to look at it, what can I do to help it ripen off the vine? Or is it a futile attempt?

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    1. No, they will not ripen off the vine. However fruit that comes off the vine easily is often ripe. Although it's green you might find that it's actually ripe.

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  7. Hello I purchased a horned melon today to eat and harvest seeds from could I grow them in Michigan during the summer months

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    1. Yes, the season should be long enough, even in Michigan for horned melons. To improve your chances, you could germinate the seeds indoors about four weeks before your last frost to give the plants a head start.

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