Get to know the mellow Pepino Melon

With its beautiful tear-drop shape and purple-streaked satiny-smooth skin, the Pepino Melon is an eye-catching little fruit. Also known as Pepino Dulce, Melon Pear, Mellow Fruit or Tree Melon, the Pepino is now in season and available at supermarkets.

Not a true melon, the Pepino is actually in the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes and eggplants. A native of South America, Pepinos are grown in many countries, including Ecuador and New Zealand. Inside this thin-skinned beauty is a golden-yellow flesh with the texture of a fine, juicy melon and the distinctive aroma of honeydew, pear and vanilla. The Pepino has a subtle, mellow flavor with less-sweet hints of melon and cucumber. (Actually, “pepino” means cucumber in Spanish.)

Although the skin is technically edible, it peels off easily (like a blanched tomato), and there are just a few small, edible seeds inside a small, hollow cavity. Choose Pepinos with a sweet aroma and no bruises. As the fruit ripens, the purple streaks become more pronounced and the aroma intensifies. The flesh should be firm and juicy – like a crisp cantaloupe – not mealy.

The mellow “background” flavor of the Pepino Melon pairs well with other ingredients, from sweet fruits to chiles to chicken. A drizzle of lime juice, honey or a sprinkling of salt and fresh basil will enhance the mild flavor. Add to that a sprinkle of chili powder or a dash of hot sauce for a refreshing appetizer. Excellent paired with prosciutto or filled with seafood or chicken salads. However it’s prepared, this culinary curiosity is delicious across a wide spectrum of dishes.


Pepinos A L’Orange

Serve these spirited pepino chunks over ice cream, pound cake, or just by themselves in a long-stemmed chilled goblet.

2 Frieda’s Pepino Melons, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1/3 cup triple sec or orange liqueur
1 tablespoon finely chopped Frieda’s Crystallized Ginger
Toasted slivered almonds
If desired, sliced pound cake, or vanilla or peach ice cream

Peel Pepinos, cut into quarters. Carve out the center seed cavity; discard seeds. Chop melon into bite-sized chunks; place in a non-metal bowl. Sprinkle triple sec over melon; stir in crystallized ginger. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 6 hours to blend flavors. Serve as is, topped with silvered almonds, or over pound cake or ice cream.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.