You know that taste you come across during meals that prompts you to ask, or to follow someone after to tell on what it is that you were tasting in the food? This is the experience I had, first time I ate this fruit. I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was I was tasting in the fruit salad, and I had to follow up with the chef for just the name of the ingredient.
Pepino is a sweet edible fruit that grows from an evergreen shrub native to South America. It is grown in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Chile. In Africa, Kenya is one of the places where the pepino melon has its most common market: and cultivation of pepino dulce, is increasing.
In the US, the sweet cucumber is produced at a commercial scale, but for local consumption only. The New Zealand and Australia are the only two countries known to produce the mellow fruit for export, as they are not easy to transport.
Known as mtango-tamu in Swahili, Pepino fruit has many other names, including: pepino dulce (as above), sweet cucumber, pepino melon, melon pear, tree melon, melon shrub, and mellow fruit. Its scientific name is Solanum maricatum. As a result of cross pollination, many cultivars of the pepino fruit exist.
In shape pepino fruit may be round, oval or pear shaped. Its appearance in color could be white, purple, green or ivory with stripes. This depends on the cultivar bearing the fruit, and also how ripe it is.
The original name of the fruit ‘pepino’ is derived from a Spanish word representing the cucumber. However, the pepino fruit belongs to the nightshades family of plants, and thus a relative of the tomato, potato and the eggplant.
The fruit is mildly sweet and juicy and its best if you wait for it to be completely ripened before eating.
In culinary uses, the pepino fruit is mostly eaten whole with skin like an apple. It can also be added into fruit salads, often without skin. Pepino fruit can also be cut and eaten like a melon, eating the flesh juicy part and leaving the skin.
Some health benefits of the pepino fruit include:
- Helps prevent diabetes
- Reduces the risk of hypertension
- Lowers blood cholesterol levels
- Help fight pathogens and scavenge harmful free radicals
- Ease digestion by providing good amounts of dietary fiber