(Solanum muricatum – Family Solanaceae)
Pepino, tree melon
pepino dulce (Latin America)
The fruit is from a small bush native to temperate Andean areas of Peru and Chile, but cultivated elsewhere in Central and South America and Austalasia.
“Pepino” in Spanish actually means cucumber.
However, since the pepino is more like a melon, it is also called pepino melon or melon pear. One variety, Rio Barba, is vine-like. Its fruits resemble small cucumbers, thereby, living up to its name. However, this name is also used in parts of South America for the cassabanana.
Efforts to establish the pepino in California during the 1920s was unsuccessful, but it was brought into cultivation in Australia and New Zealand.
The fruit is typically about five inches long and three inches in diameter, at least, near the stem end. Smooth, like an eggplant, its golden skin is heavily streaked with purple.
The pale yellow flesh is quite tart, with a flavour suggestive of lemon, pineapple, and melon.
The sweet seeds of this fruit are also edible. Its aroma is suggestive of a Bartlett pear blended with vanilla and honey. It makes a good partner with other fruits in a salad.
Pepinos are rich in Vitamin C and A, and can be peeled and eaten raw; but they are best poached with a little honey to counteract their acidity. They, then, can be added to fruit salads.