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Pepino Melon – How To Grow & Harvest

You may have heard of the lovely Pepino melon. It is an evergreen-looking shrub native to South America, now grown everywhere and very much grown in China. Originally called Pepino Dulce, coming from the Spanish translation of Pepino, which means cucumber, this melon is known as the cucumber melon. Rich with unique and exotic flavors, it is good for many different things. 

Like a funny looking apple, the Pepino melon is a great beginner fruit. It is a very hardy perennial, able to grow in many different weather conditions, and comes with a high yield. 

In today’s article, we will discuss the entire world of Pepino melons, from the flavor to looks to the complete guide on how to grow this delicious and unique fruit. Stick around!

Flavor and Appearance of the Pepino Melon

To picture the Pepino melon, first picture an apple. The Pepino melon is about the same size as an ordinary apple; however, it is more of an oval shape instead of being so round. The skin is very smooth, and as it first grows, it is a pale yellow color. As the fruit ripens, purple stripes appear all over the fruit. The outer skin is thinner than an apple, making it super easy to slice or bite right into. The flesh inside is a pale orange color, and the middle is riddled with small juicy seeds (like a regular melon), which are also edible. 

The Pepino melon is known as the cucumber melon because it is said that it tastes like a cross between a cucumber and a honeydew melon or a cantaloupe. The texture inside is also very similar to a cucumber. 

How to Eat Pepino Melon 

Like I mentioned above, Pepino melon is commonly just grabbed off the bush and eaten (like an apple) wherever it’s grown. You can also slice it like a melon, leaving the skin on, or add it to fruit salads, cereals, oatmeals, etc. 

In South America, there is a great traditional breakfast made with Pepino melon. The fruit is first to cut in half, and the seeds scooped out (although these can be saved as edible). Sugar is then spooned out onto each half; they are placed face down on the grill and charred. Once grilled (for about 4 minutes), they are taken off the grill and drizzled with honey for a delicious start to the day. 

How to Grow Pepino Melon

Pepino melon is one of the easier fruits to grow. It’s hardy and doesn’t require too much care. It is a perennial and, if properly cared for, will continue to produce fruit for years and years. It is possible to grow pepinos from seeds. However, they are most commonly grown from cuttings. Here is a step-by-step guide to growing Pepino from cuttings.

  1. Have a small Pepino cutting, 5-6 inches long, with a few leaves (and other growth); place it in water until roots appear. 
  2. Pepino melons grow best in sandy, loamy soil or clay. Once the cutting has enough roots, it can go right into its forever placement. 
  3. Nutrient-rich soil is key to growing healthy Pepino melons. Make sure your soil is well fertilized. Amending with sugar cane will help the fruit grow to be juicy and sweet. Pepino melon also likes soil with a slightly higher pH than most things. It likes its levels at around 6.5-7.5. 
  4. These plants get to around three feet wide and three feet tall, and you can trellis them like you would a tomato plant to help the branches not break under the weight of their fruit. They will continue growing and grow all over the place if not pruned or trimmed. If you have a space big enough, this may not be a problem; otherwise, prune back your branches every so often to keep it under control. 
  5. Pepino melons can grow in many different climates but do the best (and will only flower and produce fruit) in temperatures above 65. 
  6. They are sun soakers and love being in an area with full sun. 
  7. Water pepinos every day until they are almost at their full size; they can be watered once a week. However, if you live in a very hot and dry area, water once every other day or even once a day if it’s extra hot for long periods. 
  8. Pepino melons will start producing fruit about 4-6 months after planting. Since it only produces fruit in temperatures above 65, it’s a good idea to start your Pepino melon sometimes 4-6 months before your area sees that weather. After they start flowering, it usually takes around 60-80 days until the fruit is fully ready to harvest. A Pepino melon will continue to produce fruit all year round if the weather is right, but it will stop producing once it gets colder. This doesn’t mean that it’s dead (because it is a perennial), so keep it alive, and it will pick back up next season! 
  9. Pepinos are frost-sensitive. If you live in a colder area most of the year or have harsher winters, consider growing your Pepino in a medium-sized pot. You can take this pot indoors during the colder months, placing it inside a sunny spot. Make sure your pot has well-draining, well-fertilized soil. Once it gets warmer outside, you can start placing the pot outside in the sun for a few hours a day. 

How To Prune Pepino Melons

Pruning Pepino melons is not completely necessary unless you have them in a specific spot (like a pot or in a garden bed) and on a trellis. You will only want to prune it before it starts to flower and only trim back the branches that are going out of control. It is best to prune Pepino melons in the spring before they start to flower. 

How to Trellis Pepino Melons

Pepino melons can pretty much be trellised exactly like a tomato plant. You can put a tomato cage around the plant and have it grow from there, or you could set something up like an A-frame trellis system that you can train the plant to grow on. Pepino melons benefit from trellis because the weight from the fruit is taken off of the fragile branches. It also takes the fruit off of the ground. 

Pests Known to Attack Pepino Melons

Like all plants, there are a handful of pests or bugs that you should look out for when growing Pepino melons. Three species are most known for attacking pepinos.

  1. Onion Thrips– also called potato thrips, are little tiny bugs that like to settle in clusters of the crevasses of plants. Called onion thrips for the intense take over of onions however they do enjoy almost every kind of plant in your garden. To get rid of them, blast the plants affected with water, knocking any bugs off. Then spray neem oil or insecticidal soap on your plants for a few days to ensure the bugs don’t return.
  2. Spider Mites– Spider mites are similar to thrips and will attack pretty much everything in your garden. They can also be removed the same way as thrips. 
  3. Cotton Whiteflies– are known for lowering the yield of many plants by feeding on the underside of the leaves on a plant and spreading diseases, like the cotton leaf curl virus. They also release a fluid on the leaves that looks like a black fungus. By mixing a 1:1 ratio of water and vinegar, then a few drops of vinegar in a spray bottle, spray your plants with this solution, and they will leave. 

Diseases Known to Attack Pepino Melon

Unfortunately, Pepino melons are prone to disease and contract any disease that melons can contract; however, I find this to be true for most fruit. Here are some of the diseases you may find on a Pepino melon plant.

  1. Blight is a very common fungal disease among lots of different plants, vegetables, and melons. You can spot blight by looking for circular brown spots on the leaves and the stems. These spots will grow larger and appear to have a little yellow ring around each spot. The fungus spores are usually carried by the wind or transferred by water and grow when the weather gets cooler and there is more moisture outside. Unfortunately, there is no cure for blight; once your plant is infected, the best thing to do is harvest any fruit (if there is any), and you will have to rip out of the plant. Wash any gardening tools used, sun treat your soil before putting anything else in it. Rotate your plants. 
  2. Bacterial Leaf Spot– Bacterial leaf spot is a bacteria that grows on almost any plant. It will look like the leaves are almost water damaged with brown and yellow spots. The same goes for bacterial leaf spots with blight; there is no cure. However, with BLS, you can try picking off the infected leaves to try and make sure the plant lasts a little longer, though it will eventually die. 
  3. Powdery Mildew– This is a fungus but isn’t too terrible for diseases. You can easily spray it off with fungicide or combine a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water in a spray bottle with a few drops of dish soap. You can also use one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of dish soap combined with water in a spray bottle. Spray down your entire plants, preferably when it is a warmer, dry day outside. You can do this daily until you see results. You can also remove some of the leaves that are poorly infected. 
  4. Fusarium Wilt– Fusarium wilt is one of my least favorite diseases. It’s powerful and acts quickly to destroy your plants and even entire gardens. Early symptoms look like the bottom branches and leaves drying up, turning yellow, and wilting even if you have been watering your plant. It will quickly take over the rest of the plant to look the same. Remove the infected plant quickly, and sun treat your soil in that area to try to zap any soil disease. You can also treat your soil with hydrogen peroxide before you do this. Make sure to thoroughly clean any garden tools used in the process and always rotate your crops. 

How Do Pepino Melons Pollinate?

Pepino melons are self-pollinators and have both male and female flowers. This means they need cross-pollination for the female flowers to fruit. This will happen naturally if there are plenty of bees, birds, and other helpful bugs in your garden.

If you are lacking these, you can always hand pollinate. Hand pollination is easy; it involves rubbing a q-tip around the male flower and then rubbing that same q-tip on the female flower. Do this a few times a day for a week, and your female flowers will be pollinated. You can also plant flowers and herbs around your garden to attract helpful bugs and birds. 

Final Thoughts

The Pepino melon is a very exciting and delicious fruit. Since it is so hardy, this makes it an easy fruit to grow, even for a beginner fruit gardener! It will always come back year after year if well taken care of to supply you and your friends and family with yummy fruit. This fruit can be eaten right off the plant or grilled up and drizzled with yummy for a great summertime snack. Happy gardening!