What Is Pepino?

Explains what a pepino is and where and how it is grown. Also provides common uses for the pepino fruit.

The pepino, or pepino dulce, is an exotic fruit that is produced from the pepino plant, which is a small bush that resembles a tomato vine and which grows to approximately three feet in height. Pepinos can be found in climates where the weather is moderate, frost-free, and where much sunshine is present. Although it is native to South America, is it also grown in Australia, New Zealand, and in the United States, in California. The pepino has a taste that is similar to a cucumber, cantaloupe, and a honeydew melon. Because of this, other common names for the pepino include melon shrub, tree melon, mellowfruit, pear melon, and the sweet cucumber.

You can identify a pepino by its smooth round or oval shape and its colorful skin, which is light yellow with purple lines throughout. Depending on the type of pepino available, sizes of this fruit vary from small to large. For example, the pepino type "Vista" is a medium-sized cultivar that averages approximately three inches in length and width. When you cut into a pepino, the fruit contains an orange/yellow colored, juicy flesh. Additionally, several seeds are present within. These seeds can be eaten in addition to the flesh.

Because the pepino is an exotic fruit, you can typically purchase it at larger supermarket chains and at specialty fruit and vegetable stores. Additionally, where you can find pepinos available for sale you should be able to purchase them year-round. When purchasing a pepino, select only those whose skin color is a deep yellow or gold. This indicates that the fruit is fully ripened. Also select pepinos that are firm yet somewhat pliant when squeezed by hand. Once you have purchased your pepinos, you can store them in your home for up to one week as long as they are stored in your refrigerator.

If desired, you can also grow pepinos in your home garden. However, pepinos are not typically grown from their seeds but are reproduced via stem cuttings from the pepino plant. Note that if you do plan to grow pepinos at home the plants tend to attract many pests and diseases so must be monitored carefully during their growth process. Because of this, ask the advice of a skilled gardener before attempting to cultivate this fruit on your own.

Uses for the pepino fruit vary greatly. However, the pepino is commonly used as a dessert fruit. For example, it is popular when combined with other exotic fruits in fruit salads and platters. You can also eat a pepino, raw, provided that you first remove its outer skin. Because of its unique taste, many people also like to top a raw slice of pepino with white or brown sugar prior to eating it.

Because pepino flesh is sweet and tasty, it provides a welcome addition to many desserts, side dishes, and health-conscious meals. Additionally, it is an interesting addition to many party fruit platters because of its unique, dual color skin and its juicy, flavorful, and brightly colored inner flesh.

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