Pepino Melon: The unpopular healthy shrub

Pepino melon shrub (Solanum muricatum), is a lesser known member, of the family Solanaceae (Nightshade). It is an evergreen shrub native to the mild Andean regions of Colombia, Peru and Chile.

It has a light-yellow to light-green skin, streaked with purple variegations. The flesh, when ripe is golden yellow with a narrow seed cavity. The Pepino melon is entirely edible: skin, flesh, pulp and seeds.

Popularly referred to as the magic fruit in many parts of the world, Pepino tastes a lot like a not-so-sweet cantaloupe with faint cucumber, pear or banana flavour.

The pulp has a soft, cucumber and melon like texture and can be easily scooped out with a spoon. It is very rich in vitamin c; a content of 25mg per 100 grams of fresh fruit.

This Vitamin c is essential in the prevention of oral thrush and maintaining of healthy gums. It also has low content of calories that helps in reducing weight.

It contains many starch fibers; a carbohydrate that is essential for digestion. And also a good source of Beta-carotene antioxidants essential in preventing disease.

Pepino Melon helps prevent cancer and diabetes (tends to regulate blood sugar levels because of the high fiber content), plus lower cholesterol. Plus Pepino Melon is anti-inflammatory in action helping to sooth away your aches and pains.

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Pepino melon is an excellent source of fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate your body does not digest. The fiber in the melon slows digestion, helping you feel longer. It adds bulk to your stool and softens it, makes it easier for you to have a bowel movement. Consuming more fiber lowers your risk of both heart disease and diabetes.

The pepino melon is sodium-free. Decreasing your daily intake of sodium lowers your blood pressure and reduces your risk of developing illnesses related to high blood pressure, such as heart disease and kidney disease.

GROWING THE PEPINO

The pepino has similar requirements to those of tomatoes. There are two methods of propagation used; cuttings and seeds but it is usually propagated from cuttings.

Germinating seeds require a minimum soil temperature of 12c and unlike some species of tomatoes it can survive mild cold snaps.

Pepino melon does well drained and fertile soils. Given that the plant is herbaceous, it may require support to keep fruits above the ground.

In an acre, one can grow about 4900 sticks at a spacing of 3 feet by 3 feet. With proper crop management and rain or irrigation when it is a bit dry, every plant can yield six to eight mature fruits per month at a time.

Despite being growing upright, ,the plant may have to be erected on metal or wooden poles or left to vine over other plants when it fruits abundantly to avoid the fruit touching the ground.

HARVESTING

Pepino melons will not set be as fruit until the night temps are above 65 F. (18 C.). Fruit reaches maturity 30-80 days after pollination.

Fruits are harvested once they have fully ripened and can be stored for several days. They can be eaten wholly and are also useful in making desserts and as addition to fruit salads.

Simply pick the ripest looking fruit, leaving any others on the plant to ripen further. They should come off the plant with only the slightest of tugs. Once done harvesting pepinos, they can be stored in the refrigerator for as long as 3 or 4 weeks.

Source: AgroNigeria