The Pepino Melon bush is a hardy food-producing plant that will work hard for you in the garden. So what is a Pepino Melon, what does it taste like, and how to grow Pepino Melon fruit? Let’s find out.
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What Is A Pepino Melon?
Pepino Melon fruit is a small oval fruit with firm, smooth skin that turns yellow with purple stripes when it ripens. The size of the Pepino Melon can vary from passion fruit size up to the size of an adult hand.
The Pepino Melon bush is a perennial plant, meaning it will live for several years.
Left to grow naturally, the Pepino Melon shrub will sprawl on the ground and may attract fruit-loving pests and animals for their dinner. If you don’t mind sharing your harvest, the Pepino will spread as a ground cover.
Where Does Pepino Originate
The Pepino Melon bush originates from South America.
It is also known as Pepino Dulce to distinguish it from the Spanish word, pepino, meaning cucumber. Other names it can go by are sweet cucumber and melon pear.
Pepino (Solanum muricatum) comes from the Solanaceae family which is the same nightshade family with members of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and potatoes.
What Does Pepino Melon Taste Like
The taste of Pepino Melon is a cross between a cucumber and a honeydew melon or a cantaloupe.
Pepino Melons are mildly sweet and best eaten when completely ripe for the sweetest flavor.
I would also describe Pepino Melon taste as being refreshing and light so it is a perfect fruit to enjoy after dinner.
Unripened Pepino Melons can be cooked like squash.
How To Cut a Pepino Melon
To cut a Pepino Melon, give it a wash, slice it in half lengthwise down the middle, then slice each half into quarters to give you melon slices.
Larger Pepino Melons can be sliced further into eighths.
The skin, although edible, is not pleasant to eat, so either discard the skin after eating your Pepion Melon slice or peel it before eating.
To dice Pepino Melon, slice it lengthwise down the middle, scoop out the seeds, peel the halves, and dice the fruit to your desired size.
The Pepino Melon seeds are edible but if you prefer, you can remove them.
I eat the Pepino Melon seeds when I serve the fruit sliced and remove them when I want to dice the fruit.
Next, you might be wondering how to eat a Pepino Melon.
How To Eat Pepino Melon
The entire Pepino Melon is edible, including the skin and seeds, though the skin may become tough by the time the fruit is ripe. Instead, peel the skin before eating it, or eat around the skin.
Here is a list of ways to enjoy eating Pepino Melon:
Pepino Melon can be eaten straight from the bush, like an apple.
Slice Pepino Melon into quarters and eat it like a melon, leaving the skin.
Peel the Pepion Melon, dice and add it to fruit salads.
Top your breakfast cereal with Pepino Melon.
Make a breakfast bowl with peeled and diced Pepino Melon, top with cottage cheese or ricotta cheese, sprinkle with your choice of nuts and seeds (such as almonds and pepitas) and finish with a drizzle of honey. This is my favorite way to eat Pepino Melon!
Cook Pepino Melon as you would a squash.
Use Pepino Melon in salsa. If you’re looking for a Pepino Melon recipe for Pepino Salsa, this one uses 2-3 Pepino Melon fruits and makes a perfect addition to fish, pork and chicken. Or turn it into an appetizer by topping crostini with the salsa and crumbling some goats cheese over the top.
Chargrill Pepino Melon in halves, drizzle with honey and serve with ice-cream or yogurt for dessert.
How To Grow Pepino Melon
Pepino Melon plants are ideally grown in a temperate climate with temperatures ranging from 65-75 °F (18-24 °C). They prefer a neutral pH soil level of 6.5-7.5, as do many fruits and vegetables.
The bush prefers a full-sun to part-shade position in the garden.
With healthy soil amended with compost and mulched with sugar cane mulch or similar organic mulch, adequate water and plenty of sunshine, Pepino Melon plants will produce bigger and sweeter fruit. But the Pepino Melon is a hardy bush that will happily grow in many conditions, including clay, loamy and sandy soil.
While the Pepino Melon plant is sensitive to frost, there are many gardeners who grow the plant successfully in climates affected by frost. The Pepino plant may develop yellow leaves that can drop off if affected by frost but the plant will usually recover well when the weather warms up.
If you live in a frost-prone climate, try finding a sheltered spot to plant your Pepino Melon to protect it from the worst of the frost. Close to a wall or under the eaves of a house can work well.
Growing Pepino Melons in pots is a great option because pots can be moved undercover to a sheltered spot during times of frost.
When Does Pepino Melon Fruit
In warm climates, Pepino Melons can fruit year-round. Though more commonly Pepino Melon plants will begin flowering in spring, or when nighttime temperatures are 65 °F (18 °C) or above. Fruit will then form throughout spring, summer and through fall.
New Pepino plants have been known to fruit in as little as 4-6 months.
The Pepino bush produces self-fertile purple and white flowers. From the time the Pepino bush flowers until Pepino Melons are ready to harvest is 60-80 days.
When Are Pepino Melon Ripe
Pepino Melons are ripe and ready to harvest when the skin turns a pale creamy color all the way through to golden yellow with purple stripes (though stripes may not form if the fruit is shaded). For the tastiest Pepino Melon fruit, leave it on the plant until fully ripe for the flavor to develop.
If a Pepino Melon accidentally falls from the bush before it has fully ripened, try leaving it out on the kitchen bench. In many cases, the Pepino Melon will ripen up, just like a tomato.
How To Propagate Pepino Melon Plants
Pepino Melon plants can be grown from Pepino Melon seeds or Pepino plant cuttings.
If you are planting seeds, start them indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost. Then they will be ready to plant out in the garden when the temperature warms up.
Growing Pepino Melon plants from cuttings gives a faster result. Because of this, it’s my preferred method, and in no time you will have many more pepino plants!
To propagate Pepino Melon from cuttings, take 4-inch (10cm) stem cuttings and remove the lower leaves. You can then grow them in either water or soil.
How To Grow Pepino Melon Cuttings In Water
Place the pepino melon cuttings in a glass jar of water and position it in a well-lit spot out of direct sunlight. Kitchen windowsills are often a good spot.
Ensure the remaining leaves are not touching the water and then change the water every 3-4 days.
Within 2 weeks, roots will form on the cuttings and they can be potted up into soil.
Introduce newly potted pepino melon plants slowly to direct sunlight, a process called ‘hardening off’.
How To Grow Pepino Melon Cuttings In Soil
Place the 4-inch (10cm) pepino melon cuttings in pots of well-draining soil. Keep the pots in a well-lit spot out of direct sunlight. Water daily.
Within a few weeks, roots will form and pepino melon plants can be ‘hardened off’ before planting into the garden.
How To Grow Pepino Melon Plants By Soil Layering
Pepino will also grow roots from branches that touch the ground. You can encourage this by laying a branch on the ground and covering a portion of the branch with soil.
Once the branch has developed its own roots, you can easily cut the branch from the original mother plant and transplant it elsewhere in the garden.
Water the new Pepino Melon plant well and often until it is established in its new position.
Pepino Melon Pest Tips
Pepino melon fruit is susceptible to pest attacks similar to those in the same nightshade family, tomato and chili for example. A simple organic solution is to use an exclusion bag on the fruit. Simply tie an exclusion bag (organza bags work well and you can purchase them here) around the fruit while it is small, with a bag large enough to accommodate the fruit to full size.
If you’re growing pepino melon in a container to bring indoors during winter, it may come under attack by spider mites or aphids. You can use neem oil to treat the plant.
Can you eat the seeds of a Pepino Melon?
Yes, you can eat the seeds of a Pepino Melon. The seeds are soft and edible.
Pepino is a low-maintenance perennial food plant that will work hard for you in the garden. Once you discover how easy it is to grow Pepino Melon, you will be glad you came to know this easy plant with delicious fruit. So why not add a Pepino Melon bush to your garden?
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