Thursday, July 19, 2007
In defense of the kiwano
There is something a bit primitive about the kiwano. This spiky vegetable (or is it a fruit?) belongs in a tropical jungle, not in some aseptic supermarket. Where else would I have come across it but at Pierre's stall, where it looked right at home next to stripy green tomatoes and miniature yellow pumpkins?
Looking like a cross between a cucumber and a hand grenade, the kiwano sat in my fridge for a few days while I wondered what to do with it and put off taking its portrait. In the meantime I discovered that it's one of the most hated foods on the Internet, reviled for its slimy flesh, tough seeds and off-putting taste.
I think the problem is that this native of Africa, which is also known as the horned melon, is being marketed as a fruit. When people think "fruit" they naturally think "sweet," and the kiwano is definitely not sweet. It's closer to a cucumber than a melon, with a lemon-like acidity and loads of Vitamin C. But, lest you start to think that the kiwano is in any way ordinary, consider that when I cut it in half this white-fleshed fruit released a blood-like pink juice. Spooky.
The kiwano most commonly despised by bloggers is orange-skinned while mine was green, which might explain why it was perfectly edible. The seeds were only slightly bigger and harder than those of an ordinary cucumber and I could have happily thrown small bits of it into a salad. Fortunately, it had none of the sliminess that I had read about with dread.
Still, I couldn't see myself eating a whole kiwano all on my own - and Philippe and Sam were showing little interest - so I decided to turn it into juice, using a couple of the firm little garden pears that I had recently bought from producer Dominique. They weren't soft enough to eat but they were just right for juice, as ripe pears turn into brown mush when pressed through a juicer.
I used 1 kiwano, 2 small pears and a knob of ginger for good measure to make a frothy, pale green drink.
You know what? It tasted good enough that I wondered why I don't use my juicer more often - until it came time to clean out all those little seeds.
Nasty as the orange kiwano sounds, I think the green one deserves a chance precisely because it doesn't aim to please. After all, the world has enough Golden Delicious apples and Del Monte bananas. I wouldn't want to see this rebellious fruit, which reminds me a bit of myself as a spiky-haired teenager, go the way of the dinosaurs.
Note: Since writing this I spoke to Pierre, who confirmed that the green kiwano is the unripe fruit. If he had left it on the vine it would have turned orange, but I think he was probably wise to snip it off.