Kiwano Jelly Melon (Organic)
USDA Certified Organic
Seed Count: Approx. 20 seeds
Days to Maturity: 120 Days
Description: The Kiwano Jelly melon, also known as the African Horned cucumber, is an annual vine in the cucumber and melon family. This thorny oval fruit is filled with tons of seeds, covered in a greenish gold gel. Its fruit have a citrus taste reminiscent of passion fruit or pomegranate. Its green-yellow skin turns to a deep bright orange when ripe. It can be eaten at any stage of its development, but when over ripe, it will burst to release its seeds. This wild looking fruit originated from Africa near the Kalahari Desert. Jelly melon is often used as a garnish, in salad, juiced, or as a decorative fruit. However, I find them quite pleasant to eat, once chilled in the fridge for a bit with a little bit of sugar, because small amount of sugar or salt greatly increases its flavor. It's easy to grow, like a cucumber, and will grow just about anywhere in the US where melons and cukes thrive, however, it will not tolerate cold.
How To Grow
Sowing: Members of the cucumber and melon family, don’t take too well to transplanting, so if you have to start them early, do so in peat pots or pellets. However, it is better to sow them directly, after all danger of frost has passed. Soil temps should be consistently above 55 degrees, and they do best when the temperatures are between 68-95 degrees. Seeds should take about 2-3 weeks to germinate. When 2 or 3 leaves appear on each plant, cut off all but the strongest plant with a scissors, and plant your transplants outside, once the weather permits. Since they love to climb, providing a trellis will save space in your garden. Plant this variety in full sun, with slightly acidic soil. Planting several radishes with cucumbers seems to repel damaging cucumber beetles, but they don't like being planted near potatoes or aromatic herbs.
Growing: Jelly melons, like cucumbers have a shallow root system. Mulching your plants will help to retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. Keep plants well watered, with the soil slightly moist; they need about 1-2 inches of water per week. Let the soil dry out in between waterings; a single weekly watering is best. Avoid wetting leaves to prevent mildew issues. Also, watch out for cucumber beetles, and remove them immediately to prevent too much damage. Try not to move the vines too much because they get easily injured, and make sure to provide these climbers with a trellis. Once fruit start to ripen, cut back its water, and water them lightly and evenly, to increase its flavor and to keep the fruit from splitting. Other companion plants for cucumbers include bush beans, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes.
Harvesting: Like most vegetables, cucumbers are tender and tastiest when harvested young before their seeds are fully developed. Slicing cucumbers are generally ready for harvest when about 6-8 inches long; pickling cucumbers at 3 -5 inches in about 55 days from seeding. To avoid damage, cut fruit from the vine rather than pull. Don't allow the fruits to become overripe on the vine as this signals to the plant that the seed development process is nearly complete, and it will shut down. Keep mature cucumbers picked to encourage further production. During hot weather cucumbers grow very fast, you may need to harvest every day. Harvest the cucumber fruits early in the morning before the sun hits them for the best flavor and texture. Cucumbers store very well in the fridge. Allow the them to mature past the eating stage for seed saving. It will be very soft and the skin will turn either white, brown, yellow, green, or orange, depending on the variety. This may take up to 5 weeks. Remove the cucumbers from the vine and allow them to cure in a dry, cool place for another two weeks. Cut open the cukes and scoop out the seeds into a bowl; add an equal amount of water and let ferment for 36 hours. Remove the water and debris, and spread out the good seeds on a flat surface to dry for about two weeks. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 8 years.