Tiffany Vickers
January 28, 2009

Bored with the limited variety of winter fruits? Pepino melons could be just the ticket for keeping your palate entertained. Also known as melon pears, tree melons, or mellowfruit, Pepinos are mild and fragrant with a soft, smooth texture. They're a wonderful alternative to other melons, and have many of the same culinary uses.

The Pepino's smooth skin is a creamy to pale green color with purple stripes when it is ripe. To ripen, leave it uncovered at room temperature and out of direct sun. Once ripe, it will be fragrant and can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Native to South America, the fruit is now also grown in California and New Zealand. While Pepino melons are similar to melons and pears in taste and shape, they are only distantly related. They are closer to the nightshade family, including the tomato. The entire fruit is edible, but the skin easily peels away.

Personally, I'm not crazy about honeydew or cantaloupe, but I do enjoy Pepinos. Try to find them now for a nice change from typical winter fruits. Here are a few ideas for what to do with one:

• Cut it in half and simply spoon it out for breakfast or a snack; the flavor is enhanced with a little sprinkling of salt or squeeze of citrus.
• Cube it up and toss it on your yogurt and granola or into a morning smoothie.
• For lunch, cube or slice one up to add to a spinach salad with a citrus vinaigrette, sesame seeds and roasted cashews.
• It would be a great replacement for typical melons in a fruit salad.
• Follow your instincts and whims: Try Pepinos as a garnish, in desserts, cocktails, appetizers.
• Like Prosciutto-wrapped melon? Why not try Prosciutto-wrapped Pepino?
• How about in a spicy fruit salsa to accompany macadamia-nut-crusted Tilapia?

Nutrition tip: As an added bonus, Pepino melons are a good option for getting our daily servings of fruit. A medium Pepino is just 80 calories, has 5g of fiber and is a good source of Vitamin C.

Photos: courtesy Thue and Peter Greenwell on Wikimedia.

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