Helping You Become a More Successful Gardener
Dezidor, Wikimedia Commons Contributor
African Horned Cucumber, Blowfish Fruit, Jelly Melon, Kiwano Melon
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.
12 - 5
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
Full Sun, Partial Sun
8'-14' / 2.4m - 4.3m
Middle Africa, Southern Africa
Drought Tolerant, Average Water
Green, Orange, Light Green, Dark Green, Orange Red
Edible, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Herb / Vegetable, Vine
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