At our local markets here in France there are a few producers that grow a lot of unusual varieties of fruits and vegetables. A few weeks back one of the producers had a big bag of these strange looking fruits we had never seen before. She had grown them but wasn’t sure exactly what to do with them and she asked us if we’d like to do some research on them and try out some recipes. Obviously we jumped at the chance and dove into the weird world of the kiwano.
Kiwano, also known as horned melon or horned cucumber, is native to the Kalahari dessert where it is a great source of moisture and nutrition during the dry season. It is high in vitamin A and vitamin E, making it good for cognitive function and eyesight. It looks stunning when ripe and is often used simply for decorative purposes. The skin is spiky and tough and definitely not suitable for eating. The flesh is a bright green and tastes somewhere between a kiwi and a cucumber. It is refreshing, slightly citric and right on the line between a sweet and a savoury.
Kiwano is great to eat fresh out of the skin. You can chop the fruit in half then squeeze it, if it’s ripe the seeds and flesh will start to pop out. Some people eat the seeds but we found them too tough, it is the flesh around the seeds that tastes good. The challenge is separating the flesh from the tough seeds. If you are eating the fruit straight with your hands you can put the seed in the front of your teeth and suck the flesh from the seeds between your teeth, like you would with a seeded grape. The best way we found is to cut them in half lengthways to scoop out the flesh and the seeds, blend it all with a food blender and then put that through a sieve to remove the seed chunks. You will then be left with a delicious thick green juice.
We did try and cook the flesh to make a jam or compot, that was a mistake, it lost all of its flavor and the colour and texture was like something for a Halloween party. By far our favourite way to eat kiwano is as a sorbet. We simply took the juice of one kiwano, added two tablespoons of sugar and put it in an ice cream maker. It makes an ideal mid meal palate cleanser and would also work fantastically for a ‘trou normand’.
Another favourite way to use it is in a salad dressing, where the refreshing, slightly citrus flavor works really well. We used 1 part kiwano juice to 1 part mayonnaise, half part of natural yoghurt and a pinch of salt.
The flavours of kiwano work very well with yoghurt and it makes a pretty good cucumber substitute for a riatta (but there is a lot of liquid). It would work really well in smoothies and next on our list to try are some kiwano cocktails.
So if you come across this strange and beautiful fruit we hope you pick it up and try it out. Otherwise, maybe we can have it when you come to eat with us at La Maison Bleue.