The less known pepino melon fruit is native to South America and now widely available in China when in season. It is a small oval fruit with a firm, smooth skin. The yellow colour and the purple stripes develop when the fruit ripens. The size of the fruit can vary from the size of a plum size up to the size of a big apple.
How pepino melon grows
The pepino bush is a perennial plant, meaning it will live for several years. The bush grows up to 2 metres tall and benefits from staking or caging, like a tomato plant. If you don’t mind sharing your harvest, the pepino will spread as a ground cover.
The plant grows well in frost-free climates. The bush will be covered in light blue flowers which develop to fruit after 30-50 days. The long green leaves resemble those from the capsicum plants but are larger.
Health benefits of pepino melon
- Pepinos are low calorie fruits endowed with health benefiting dietary-fibre, minerals and vitamins.
- The antioxidants present are scientifically proven to be anti-inflammatory, skin-protective and may help prevent cancers.
- In addition to β-carotene, it contains average levels of vitamin A and flavonoid antioxidants such as lutein.
- Fresh pepino melon is a moderately good source of potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure caused by sodium.
- They also have average levels of vital B complex vitamins as well some minerals.
The taste of pepino melon
This fruit has a smooth, juicy, and creamy textured flesh which is mildly sweet. The flavour is quite like honeydew melon with a touch of cucumber.
The sweetest flavour is, as with most fruits, when the fruit is completely ripe. The seeds and skin are edible, but when pepino is ripe the skin will be tougher and so it’s better to peel.
Unripe pepino melons are usually prepared like squash.
The semi-ripe version will be crunchy and eaten like apples with skin. Another way to prepare is diced in salsa dips.
The ripest pepinos are best peeled and used in a fruit salad or grilled before serving with ice cream. Some lemon or lime juice is often added to the ripe version to balance the sweetness.
We decided to make a gazpacho with it!
Pepino Melon – Mint Gazpacho
- Soak the chia seeds with 2 tbsp of apple juice for 30 minutes.
- Peel the ripe pepino, cut in quarters. The seeds are edible and don’t need to be removed.
- Mix 2 tsp of the soaked chia seeds in a blender together with the mint, spring onions, the rest of the apple juice and the pepino. Blend until smooth, chill for 30 minutes before serving.
- The chia seeds need to be soaked in a liquid such as water, juice or a plant-based milk for a minimum of 30 minutes. Soaking overnight is preferable.
- Soaked chia seeds work as a thickening agent with other food.
- The pepino melon oxidizes rapidly, a dash of lemon juice or tartaric acid will prevent this.