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Horned melon Nutrition facts

Horned melon is a cucumber family fruit juicy, emerald-green, jellylike flesh. Some of common names of this semi-arid, yellow orange, oblong-shaped fruit are kiwano, melano, African horned cucumber, jelly melon, hedged gourd, horned melon, etc.

Scientific name: Cucumis metuliferus E. Mey. ex Naud.

Family: Cucurbitaceae.

horned melon nutrition facts and health benefits
Fresh horned melon. Photo courtesy: Travis Rigel

Horned melon is native to the semiarid regions of South Africa; Botswana in the south to Nigeria in central Africa. Nowadays, it is grown as far as New Zealand and Australia for the export market to the USA and Europe.

Horned melon is a monoecious, climbing, annual herb. In its natural habitat, it climbs on any supports it comes across like trees or shrubs.

It bears several attractive, oval to ellipsoid fruits, each measuring about 3 to 5 inches in length and 2 to 3 inches across, and has thick, shiny, variegated skin studded with many bumpy thorns all over the surface.

horned melon nutrition facts and health benefits
Kiwano fruits on a vine. Photo courtesy: Muséum de Toulouse

Inside, kiwano has the same appearance as cucumbers. The edible part consists of numerous flattened seeds, 6-9 mm long and embedded in a light green or emerald-green, jelly-like flesh. Unlike as in cucumbers, however, the peel is inedible and should be discarded.

Its flesh tastes rather bland or very mild sweet, described as musky, banana flavor.

9 Health benefits of Horned melon (kiwano)

  1. Horned melons are low calorie fruits. 100 grams of fresh fruit composes just 44 calories. Nonetheless, this tropical melon is endowed with health benefiting phyto-nutrients, dietary-fiber, minerals and vitamins.

  2. The antioxidants present in kiwanos have scientifically proven to be anti-inflammatory, skin-protective and may help prevent from cancers.

  3. Fresh melons carry good amount of phenolic compounds such as β-carotene, and zea-xanthin.

  4. Zeaxanthin helps protect retina from the "age-related macular related macular disease" (ARMD) by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays, especially in the older adults.

  5. Further, kiwano carries 143 IU/100 g of vitamin-A. Together with pigment compounds, vitamin A plays as antioxidant and take part in night-vision, maintenance of healthy mucosa and skin, and bones. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

  6. Fresh kiwano fruit contains 5.3 mg (9% of DV) of vitamin-C. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.

  7. Fresh Horned melon is modest source of potassium and other electrolytes. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure caused by sodium.

  8. 100 g of fesh fruit provides 1.1.3 mg (14% DV) of iron and 40 mg (10% DV) of magnesium. It is also a good source of mnerals like phosporus, calcium, magnesium and other trace elements.

  9. Further, they carry average levels of vital B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, folic acid, riboflavin and pantotheinc acids.

the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Horned melon (Cucumis metuliferus), ripe, raw, Nutrition value per 100 g.
Principle Nutrient Value Percent of RDA
Energy 44 Kcal 2.2%
Carbohydrates 7.56 g 5.8%
Protein 1.78 g 3%
Total Fat 1.26 g 6%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Folates 3 μg <1%
Niacin 0.565 mg 3.5%
Pantothenic acid 0.183 mg 3.5%
Pyridoxine 0.063 mg 5%
Riboflavin 0.015 mg 1%
Thiamin 0.025 mg 2%
Vitamin-A 147 IU 5%
Vitamin-C 5.3 mg 9%
Sodium 2 mg <1%
Potassium 123 mg 2.6%
Calcium 13 mg 1.3%
Copper 0.020 mg 2.5%
Iron 1.13 mg 14%
Magnesium 40 mg 10%
Manganese 0.039 mg 1.5%
Phosphorus 37 mg 5%
Zinc 0.48 mg 4%

Selection and storage

Fresh kiwano can be found year-round in some African regions of Malawi and Nigeria. In the US markets, however, their availability is still limited to big cities supermarkets.

Buy firm these melons with deep, bright yellow-orange skin and intact horns over the surface.

Avoid soft, and those with blemishes or soft spots on the skin. Kiwano, like banana, are rare fruits which are susceptible to chill injuries.

Kiwanos have a very long shelf life and store well when kept in a cool, dry place for up to 3-6 months. Do not refrigerate.

Take care while handling sharply spiked melons as they may inflict stabbing injury on hands.

Preparation and serving methods

At home, wash the fruit in cold running water and mop dry using a soft towel. To prepare, trim away top calyx and tips. Using a paring knife, cut the fruit in half lengthwise. Scoop seed-filled juicy pulp using a spoon. You can also cut it into slices or wedges to eat like a melon.

Serving methods:

Kiwano as is quite unappetizing because of its bland, neutral taste. Sprinkle some sugar, if desired.

Strain the fruit pulp for juice and spoon over ice-cream or fruit salads as you do in passion fruit.

Safety profile

Being the member of cucurbitaceae, horned melons (kiwanos) may compose triterpenoid compounds, particularly cucurbitacin-B. It may cause gastrointestinal disturbances like stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. stomach pain may be self-limiting.

Taste a spoonful of juicy pulp before eating the whole fruit to ensure that it is not from a bitter stock. If found; the whole fruit should be discarded. In a case of discomfort after consumption, one should seek medical help. (Medical Disclaimer).

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Further Resources:

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database.

  2. Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.

  3. NC State University-Storage of Kiwano fruits.

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