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Basket of dragon eggs, aka green jello fruit or Kiwano

 
pollinator
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Just thought I'd share these awesome fruit that grew well here in zone 5. Their real name is Kiwano. I bought one for fun at the grocery store last year and saved the seeds, planted out in early spring with no head start. We had late frost and early frost and still managed to get some decent fruit. Although they were full sized they weren't fully ripe when I picked them before the first hard freeze. However they ripen up just fine at room temp and stay good for several months. I think they could easily be adapted to zone 5 after a few years of saving seed.
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Nifty!  What do they taste like?  What is the plant like (vine, big, little)?  Is it an annual or perennial?
 
Dan Allen
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Mike Haasl wrote:Nifty!  What do they taste like?  What is the plant like (vine, big, little)?  Is it an annual or perennial?



My son thinks they taste like green jello, definitely a tropical sweet taste, kind of citrus kiwi ish. When unripe it tastes like a dill pickle. They definitely look like green jello. It grows on a vine that rambles everywhere, and here it would be an annual,  but I believe in the tropics it's a short lived perennial. It did tolerate several frosts down to 28-30 for about 4-6 hours,  with just a few burnt outer leaves, but died back after the first hard freeze of about 25 for 8 hours. So I think it would overwinter in subtropics just fine.
IMG_20190915_160541.jpg
dragon eggs jello fruit
dragon eggs jello fruit
 
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Pretty! I have grown them a couple times here in zone 7b as well. i was inspired by seeing them offered for sale for five or six dollars EACH in various local exotic fruit displays, but I don’t find them all that interesting to eat; just a sort of spiny gelatinous cucumber with no sweetness to speak of. (i have never been certain that the one or two I bought for seed OR the ones I grew and ate were at the proper maturity and ripeness, though; my lack of reliable color vision is not a help here.)
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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I've never heard of these. Seem very interesting & maybe worth trying here but I'm somewhat confused. Are these 2 completely different things or just variations of the same plant?

https://www.rareseeds.com/dragon-s-egg-cucumber/

https://www.rareseeds.com/kiwano-african-horned-cucumber/

I just read they originated in Croatia. Going to ask my Croatian friend about them. Maybe he can send seeds.
 
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Mike Barkley: You beat me to it! I had a Baker Creek catalog out, I KNEW I had seen them in there. Your first link is the one I was looking up. Kiwano or African Horned Cucumber. I either have seeds for that or have them on my want list.. :D
 
Dan Boone
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Dan Boone wrote:I have never been certain that the one or two I bought for seed OR the ones I grew and ate were at the proper maturity and ripeness, though; my lack of reliable color vision is not a help here.)



I want to revisit this question of how to tell when a Kiwano (horned melon, jelly melon) is ripe.  It still befuddles me.

The ones I see for sale in specialty fruit displays are -- to my color-vision-challenged eyes -- a fairly bright yellow.  

When I have grown them (two or three times, including this summer) that yellow seems to be the end state that I get in my garden.  But they grow slowly and I've typically harvested them at frost.  This year I have one fruit that is just now turning yellow; it should have plenty of time to fully ripen, whatever that means.

I'm interested in this because I find them fairly bland and flavorless.  My assumption is that the supermarket ones imported from the other side of the Pacific Ocean probably shouldn't be expected to have any more good ripe flavor than any other transoceanic fruit.  But the ones I've grown have not been much better.

Online searching has turned up a few vague "when to pick" comments.  One or two of these seem to indicate that the fruit softens a bit and turns "orange" when fully ripe, but I can't tell whether that's just their description of what I'm calling "yellow" (my yellow ones are slightly more resilient than they are when hard green) or if there's a further stage, as when a green pepper first turns orange, then finally red.  

Has anybody got any "it's ripe when" advice for me that's not primarily color based?  Or any insight on whether there's a ripeness-indicating color change past the first "mottled green to yellow" one?
 
Dan Boone
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Oho!  Another post here on Permies has a link that answers my questions to a degree.

New Crop Fact Sheet: Kiwano -- Purdue University

Ripening on the vine is said to, indeed, result in intensification of flavor and sweetness, with a final color change from yellow to more of an orange:

The approximate color turning point is 30-40 days from fruit set and at this stage they reach their maximal weight. During the following month the concentrations of reducing sugars and total soluble solids increases and the peel color changes from green through whitish green to yellow and finally to orange. Fruits picked mature green (at about turning point) fail to develop the desirable uniform orange color even after three months in storage. Fruits left to ripen in the field exhibit higher TSS and reducing sugar values than fruits allowed to ripen in storage.



But also:

The present commercial cultigene has a rather bland taste which severely limits its potential as an eating fruit. If its eating quality can be improved, mainly by increasing sugar content, acidity, and aroma, it would be marketed as a new fruit.



I wonder if there are seed sources that offer different cultivars from the commercial -- which is what I have been growing?

A market for edible kiwano does not yet exist, because the fruit lacks taste. Increasing the sweetness and improving the aroma may give rise to a new product for a large-volume market.

...

Significant differences were found in important fruit quality characters between the commercial cultigene and the accession lines. The Botswana and commercial cultigenes had significantly larger fruit (up to twice as large) and fewer thorns than the other accession lines. The commercial line had significantly lower reducing sugar and higher pH than the other accession lines, but some of the accession lines were bitter.

The line from Botswana had large and attractive fruits, with a slightly different shape. Fruits of this line had high acidity and very good aroma.

 
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Thanks for posting the excerpts, Dan.

That makes sense, the kiwano I have grown two years ago did not improve much in taste even when they had a rich orange. I used them in smoothies and salsa and sometimes spooned them out with some sugar and lime juice sprinkled on top. It was good to have lots of fresh fruit on hand, but did not become a favourite.
This year is less hot than two years ago so I am not sure if I will see any ripe fruit (or fruit at all).

Here is a pic from two years ago with the most ripe shade I could get.
kiwano_vergleich.JPG
kiwano different stages
kiwano different stages
 
Dan Boone
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That is a helpful but slightly-dispiriting photo.  The fruit on the right looks like what I think of as "yellow" -- probably because my red-green color vision problem makes red shades recede for me.  It doesn't look orange at all to my eyes, except for in the patterning around the spines.  So I'm still unsure whether the fruits ever get more orange than that (I can see select unequivocal shades of orange) or whether I'd be able to tell if they did.  
 
Dan Boone
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This is my opportunity to do observational science.  Here's a photo of what the mature-ish fruit on my plant looks like today.  Since I will be picking this one for seed, I have no fear of letting it become over-ripe; so I'm going to leave it on the vine to see if it develops any further color stages.

kiwano-first-2020.jpg
Kiwano August 2020
Kiwano August 2020
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