(Sept. 2, 11:22 a.m.) The horned melon is unique among California fresh produce in that shoppers and restaurants use them as much for decoration as for food items.

Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing Services Inc. plans to market about 8,000 cartons of the fruit this year, said Susan Kragie, tropical sales manager for Western Fresh Marketing.

The company’s horned melons, also known as kiwano, is grown near Gridley, Calif., which is about 70 miles north of Sacramento. The horned melons are trucked to the Madera area where J. Marchini & Sons Inc., Le Grand, Calif., custom packs the fruit for Western Fresh Marketing, Kragie said.

Picking and packing of the horned melons got under way in mid-August. The harvest continues through October, Kragie said, but the unusual-looking fruit will be available through the holidays.

“As long as the ambient temperature stays under 75 degrees, horned melons can be stored up to six months without refrigeration,” she said.

When ripe, horned melons, which are a member of the cucumber family, have a bright yellow-orange skin with deep, green seeds and flesh, Kragie said. Some restaurants use the fruit in salads or as a garnish with roasted meat while others use them for displays, she said. Some consumers use the fruit in deserts and drinks.

The most popular use appears to be as an ingredient in blended smoothies that also include other fruits, juice and sugar. Others sprinkle sugar on the fruit and eat right out of the shell, Kragie said.

“I think it tastes a bit like a cucumber with a subtle lemon flavor,” Kragie said.

One grower said a ripe horned melon has a banana taste while another said the fruit tastes like a combination of cucumber and kiwifruit.

Western Fresh Marketing adds horned melons
The unusual-looking horned melon, also known as kiwano, is a member of the cucumber family and has deep, green seeds and flesh, says Susan Kragie, tropical sales manager for Western Fresh Marketing. “I think it tastes a bit like a cucumber with a subtle lemon flavor,” she says.