Pepino dulce/Pepino melon/Solanum muricatum

The Pepino melon (Solanum muricatum) is native to the highlands of Peru and Chile, but is now also grown in other South and Central American countries, in California and in New Zealand. The plant is not found in the wild and details of its origin are unknown. They were being grown in California at least by 1889. Today they are popular in Japan. Pepino melons are mild and fragrant with a soft, smooth texture. They’re a wonderful alternative to other melons, and have many of the same culinary uses. The flesh of the Pepino is valued for its light, pleasant scent of vanilla and notes of honey. Surprisingly, the flavor is a delicate combination of cantaloupe and honeydew melon combined. Pepinos are often enjoyed in fruit or spinach salads or simply cut in half and served individually, topped with a sprinkling of fresh lemon or lime juice and chile powder.

Pepino dulce is a small, unarmed, herbaceous plant or bush with a woody base and fibrous roots. Growth is erect or ascending to about 3 feet high and several feet across. It is similar in these respects to a small tomato vine, and like the tomato may need staking or other support. The bright green leaves are sparsely covered with very small hairs. In appearance the pepino dulce is much like a potato plant, but the leaves may take many forms–simple and entire, lobed, or divided into leaflets. The small flowers are blue, violet-purple or white marked with purple, and are similar in form to unopened potato flowers. The pepino dulce is deemed to be parthenocarpic but a much heavier crop results from self-pollination or cross-pollination. The plants will not set fruit until the night temperatures are above 65° F.

The fruit also show considerable diversity in size and shape. In the areas of its origin there are small oblong types with many seeds, while others are pear or heart-shaped with few or many seeds. Still others are round, slightly larger than a baseball and completely seedless. The colors also vary–completely purple, solid green or green with purple stripes, or cream colored with or without purple stripes. The fruit of cultivars grown in this country are usually round to egg-shaped, about 2 to 4 inches long, with some growing up to 6 inches. The skin is typically yellow or purplish green, often with numerous darker streaks or stripes. The flesh is greenish to white and yellowish-orange. Better quality fruit is moderately sweet, refreshing and juicy with a taste and aroma similar to a combination of cantaloupe and honeydew melon. In poor varieties there can be an unpleasant “soapy” aftertaste. The fruit matures 30 to 80 days after pollination. Individual fruits should not be picked until they are completely mature to assure the highest flavor and sugar content. Different cultivars vary, but the ground color of many mature fruits is somewhat yellow to light orange.

Ripe fruit also bruises easily and requires careful handling. Such fruit should store well for 3 to 4 weeks at around 38° F under relatively high humidity. Fruit destined for distant markets would need to be picked earlier just before full ripeness. As it turns out this happens to be a good time to pick the fruit. Studies have shown that fruit in the middle degree of ripeness has the best performance in cold storage. Over-ripe fruit suffers most from physiological problems such as internal breakdown, discoloration and dehydration. If harvested too early, insufficient ripening and development of flavor and sweetness can result. The pepino dulce is commonly chilled and eaten fresh much like a cantaloupe or other melon.

The pepino dulce is a fairly hardy plant that grows at altitudes ranging from near sea level to 10,000 ft. in its native regions. However it does best in a warm, relatively frost-free climate. The plant will survive a low temperature of 27 to 28° F if the freeze is not prolonged, but may loose many of its leaves. It can be grown in many parts of central and southern California, although it does best in locations away from the coast and is not well suited for hot, interior gardens. Pepino dulce has been grown and has fruited in the milder areas of northern California (Sunset Climate Zones 16 and 17). The plant is small enough to be grown satisfactorily in a container.

Pepino Melon Dal Curry

Tuvar dal – 1/2 cup
Pepino melon – 2 medium size
Tomato – 1 (chopped)
Onion – 1 (medium size, chopped)
Ginger- 1 inch size(chopped)
Garlic – 3-4 pods (chopped)
Chilly powder – 1/2 tspn
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tspn
Garam masala – 1/4 tspn
Green chilly – 3 (chopped)

Seasoning – (optional)
Shallots – 4 (chopped)
Whole red chilly – 2
Mustard seeds
Curry leaves

How to make
Wash the tuvar dal well and pressure cook it for 6 whistles and set aside. Slice the pepino melon into small cubes. Cook the pepino separately with 1 1/2 cup water and green chillies. Heat oil in a bottom heavy pan. Add chopped onion, green chillies, ginger and garlic. Saute well till onion becomes translucent. Add chopped tomato and saute till mushy.Add chilly powder, turmeric powder and garam masala and saute till the raw taste of the powders leave.

Add the cooked dal , salt to taste. Add required amount of water and cook well for 10 more minutes.For seasoning, heat oil in a wok.Add whole red chilly and chopped shallots. when the shallots turn brown in color splutter mustard seeds and add curry leaves.

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5 Responses to Pepino dulce/Pepino melon/Solanum muricatum

  1. kimkiminy says:

    I tried these once! They were lovely.

  2. bimbalo says:

    I’ve never seen before.
    Very attractive.!

  3. iv’e never seen this before but have grown it this year i’m waiting for the fruit to ripen to try the plant itself looks brilliant on my patio

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