Pepino melon is a juicy, delicious, pleasantly fragrant berry grown in the foothills of South American Andes Mountains. It belongs to the nightshade or Solanaceae, the same family as tomatoes, eggplants and capsicums.
This little-known fruit is naturally adopted to low lying forests of Andean mountains of Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia. In the US, Californian state produces them at commercial scale but its production is just limited for local consumption. Recently, New Zealand and Australia grow them for exporting purposes.
Scientific name: Solanum muricatum. Some of common names include mellow fruit, tree melon, melon pear, sweet cucumber (pepino dulse) and melon shrub.
|Fresh pepino melons. Photo courtesy: Forest and Kim Starr|
Pepino is an annual, semi-dense, small shrub reaching about 1-2 meters tall. It flourishes well in well-drained loam soil and frost-free climates. Its deep green, elongated leaves resemble those like capsicum plants but larger in size.
Light-blue flowers bloom which develop into fruits in 30-50 days. The fruits come with various colors, shapes and sizes. In general, they are light yellow, smooth surface with purple speckles, ovate to elongated, measuring about the size of a small orange, and weigh 300-500 grams. Inside, its smooth, juicy, cream textured flesh is sweet and flavour which is reminiscent of honeydew melon. The seeds are edible.
Pepinos are low calorie fruits endowed with health benefiting phyto-nutrients, dietary-fiber, minerals and vitamins.
The antioxidants present in pepinos are scientifically found to be anti-inflammatory, skin-protective and may help prevent from cancers.
In addition to β-carotene, it contains average levels of vitamin-A and flavonoid antioxidants such as lutein. Altogether, these pigment compounds are found to have antioxidant properties 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.
Fresh fruit has moderate amounts of vitamin-C. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
Fresh pepino melon is moderately good source of potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure caused by sodium.
Further, they carry average levels of vital B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, folic acid, riboflavin as well some minerals like phosporus, iron, calcium, manganese and trace elements.
In traditional medicines, pepino thought to possess antirheumatic properties. It is also thought to be useful for treating respiratory infections and various skin problems.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.1 g||<1%|
|Dietary Fiber||1 g||2%|
In the US, fresh harvest of pepinos hit the local markets in the month of June. They come in different colors and sizes. Choose bright, firm, and intact pepino with a delicate scent.
If you had bought mature but unripe pepinos, store them at room temperature for ripening. They last for up to a week. Once ripen, use them as early as possible or place In the fridge one to two days.
Wash the fruit before use in clean running water. Unripe pepino melon is prepared like squash and ripe ones like honeydew melon. Mature and semi-ripe pepino can be crunchy and eaten like apples with skin. In case of ripe pepinos, skin becomes little tougher as in tomatoes and better discard it.
To prepare, discard stem and top calyx end. Cut the fruit in half lengthwise using a paring knife. Scoop inner, seed-filled hollow cavity using a spoon. Seeds may be edible. Then slice into sections or wedges. Ripeness not only enriches flavor and fragrance but likeability.
Here are some serving tips:
Pepinos savoured as is without any additions.
It is used in mixed fruit salads, enjoyed with lemon or lime juice.
Being the member of Solanaceae, pepinos may elicit allergic reactions in some sensitized individuals. The usual reactions can be skin and eye itching, runny nose (allergic rhinitis), and gastrointestinal disturbances like stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. stomach pain may be self-limiting. Individuals with intolerance to peipnos may manifest cross-allergic reactions to other Solanaceae such as eggplant, tomato, peppers, etc, and advised to consult family physician. (Medical Disclaimer).
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