Weird Ingredient Wednesday: The Alien Melon from Star Trek

The Alien Melon from Star Trek

Mother Nature's creativity is infinite, especially when it comes to fruit. We've got black sapote, which tastes like chocolate pudding, and Buddha's hand citron, which looks like Freddy Kreuger's digits merged with a lemon. How could she possibly top herself?

Well, check out this piece of fruit—and yes, it is a piece of fruit and not an egg-pod dropped off by our soon-to-be alien overlords:

Image by Betty B/Flickr

Open it up, and the weirdness/beauty continues:

Image by Rocky Mountain High/Flickr

This, my friends, is a kiwano, or an African horned melon (Cucumus metuliferus). And yes, it was once featured on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as a Golana melon (episode name: "Time's Orphan").

Image by ST: DS9/CBS Television

This spiny, spiky fruit is native to South Africa and is actually a member of both the cucumber and melon families, as befitting its sturdy yellow rind and gelatinous-looking insides. It's now grown in several different areas and is called a kiwano in New Zealand, a melano in Israel, and a cuke-asaurus in Washington state.

Despite its spiky armor, kiwanos are very pleasant to eat. As befitting its multiple names, the fruit is mild and sweet and can taste like a cross between melons, cucumbers, limes, and bananas. The entire fruit is edible, including the peel, but many people choose to scoop, spoon, or suck out the jelly-like insides and spit out the seeds. (Note: the kiwano is ripe when it turns orange.)

Image by Stuart Rankin/Flickr

Kiwanos work great in fruit salads, smoothies, and desserts, like this kiwano-orange eggless ice cream from It's Yummi:

Image via It's Yummi

Cucumbertown went and made this kiwano-grapefruit cocktail, which looks perfect for summer:

Image via Cucumbertown

If you're more about savory dishes, Food Network has a recipe for grilled beef with horned melon sauce. And What's This Food? has a great twist on General Tso's Chicken called, of course, General Kiwano Chicken:

Have you tried this beast of a fruit?

Get More Weird Ingredient Wednesday

Intriguing weird ingredients can chance how you look at food. Check out finger limes, aka the caviar of citrus, these surprising mushrooms that taste like candy, and the long-fermented delights of black garlic.

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