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CUCUMIS metuliferus

Image of Cucumis metuliferus

Dezidor, Wikimedia Commons Contributor

Family

Cucurbitaceae

Botanical Name

CUCUMIS metuliferus

Plant Common Name

African Horned Cucumber, Blowfish Fruit, Jelly Melon, Kiwano Melon

General Description

If you've already had success growing melons and cucumbers, try growing the closely related African horned cucumber or jelly melon. This annual vine is native to sub-Saharan Africa where it thrives along river edges as well as open, rocky, upland locations. Its funny looking edible fruits may be bitter or non-bitter. Non-bitter types are edible and may be tart or have a mild, fruity flavor likened to a cross between a banana and pineapple. Bitter forms are absolutely inedible, so it's important to choose a cultivar known to bear quality fruits. Good jelly melons can be eaten fresh in salads or made into preserves. Ripe fruits can also be juiced.

The medium green leaves are broad and heart-shaped like that of cucumber foliage. The vines bear pretty five-lobed lemon yellow flowers, some are male and some are female making this a monoecious vine. After pollination by bees, the female blossoms form oval fruits with protruding prickles or "horns." Firm, green immature fruits taste much like cucumbers and mature orange-brown fruits develop a sweet taste and soft, gelatinous texture inside. Slice open the ripe fruit to see the green "ectoplasmic" internal flesh filled with seeds.

Grow African horned cucumbers in full sun and average to fertile, perfectly drained, deep garden soil. The vines are adapted to tough African weather and imperfect soils and will produce fruit even under slightly stressful growing conditions, though productivity is higher if provided better soils and average moisture. After threat of frost is passed, sow seeds directly in the warm ground and maintain even moisture until seedlings are strong. Allow the plants to sprawl across the ground or trellis them. Be sure to harvest fruits regularly, so vines can continue to flower and produce fruit up until a killing autumn frost. Like cucumbers, jelly melon vines are susceptible to mildew and white-flies as well as mosaic viruses. For an interesting summertime drink, add a little sugar to tart jelly melon juice.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 5

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Fruit

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    8'-14' / 2.4m - 4.3m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Middle Africa, Southern Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Vining/Climbing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Lemon Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Orange, Light Green, Dark Green, Orange Red

  • Fruit Color Modifier

    Multi-Color, Spotted/Mottled

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Herb / Vegetable, Vine

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes