Among the many specialty produce items we carry at Nino’s, there are some that look more alien-like than earth-like. The Horned Melon is a good example.
Besides a few other close encounters of the produce kind, my first real contact with this alien “fruit” was in the late 80s at Opus One, where I used it in salads, sorbets, and even smoothies. Reading it on a menu, it seems exotic; seeing it, it seems even more so.
The first thing you notice about this fruit is its shape, which is a rather unusual golden-yellow-colored, oval-like egg. The second is its surface, which is studded with sharp, pointed spikes (horns). If you’re not careful, the Horned Melon’s exterior will bite your hand long before you get to enjoy its delicious interior. Of course, in a restaurant, that’s the chef’s problem.
The Horned Melon (also known as the Kiwano, Melano, African Horned Cucumber, Jelly Melon, Hedged Gourd, and/or English Tomato) is a fruit native to a region of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. Its horned shell protects a soft, succulent, seed-filled, emerald-green flesh. Its flavor is reminiscent of a cucumber with notes of banana, melon, and lime. It’s mildly both sweet and sour.
This fruit’s versatility extends beyond eating. Simply cut in half and scoop the translucent, jelly-like flesh out of the melon to create a unique yet lovely serving dish, or toss it in fresh fruit salads, or serve it as a garnish with roasted meats.
If you’ve wandered past this unusual fruit in our specialty produce aisle and wondered what recipes it can be used in, here are a few to get you started.
Horned Melon Salsa: Makes 2 Cups
This sweet and savory salsa goes well with grilled fish and chicken. Except for the avocado, it’s low in fat and a very healthy alternative to many cream-based sauces.
1 Medium Horned Melon, Pulp Removed & Chopped
1 TBSP Red Onion, Small Diced
1/3 cup English Cucumber, Peeled, Seeded & Small Diced
2 Roma Tomatoes, Seeded & Small Diced
1/2 Ripe Avocado, Pitted & Small Diced
1 Lime, Juiced
½ Jalapeno Pepper, Minced
1 TBSP Cilantro, Chopped
- Combine all ingredients and chill.
Horned Melon Vinaigrette: Makes 1 Cup
This is a very simple recipe, but it allows you to taste and appreciate the Horned Melon’s unique flavors.
1 Medium Horned Melon
½ cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1½ TBSP Dijon Mustard, Smooth
1 Lime, Juiced
To Taste Kosher Salt
To Taste Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Cut the Horned Melon in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulp.
- Press the pulp through a sieve to extract juice. Discard seeds and pulp.
- In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth.
- Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Let stand for 30 minutes to let the flavors combine.
- Whisk immediately before serving.
Lime Minted Horned Multi-Melon Salad: Serves 2
This unique fruit salad is an excellent choice for a warm day or to pair with grilled fish and chicken.
1 ½ cups Honeydew Melon, Cut in ½” Cubes
1 ½ cups Cantaloupe, Cut in ½” Cubes
1 Horned Melon, Pulp Scooped and Chopped
1 tsp Lime Peel, Grated
1 tsp Ginger, Freshly Grated
1 Lime, Juiced
2 TBSP Fresh Mint Leaves, Chopped
2 tsp Honey
¼ tsp Kosher Salt
- Toss all ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until chilled.