I think this is the last mysterious fruit that I will manage to ripen this year as the arrival of the big frost is announced for Saturday night, with Father Christmas. I'm busy cutting back datura, ginger and ceibos, packing up banana, mandarine and yuzu and finding space for my limes and lemons, among the bougainvillea, in the already packed greenhouse. The pepino can overwinter in the garden at a temperature above -15° with the roots well protected, which is completely possible in this part of the world. In our 6 years in Mailhos, temperatures have never dipped lower than -5°so I can keep some citrus fruits in the ground and in the open and a lot of exotic plants that I've picked up on my travels over the years.
The pepino comes from somewhere down south in amerigo where it was cultivated and enjoyed, probably, by those fine Inca but is now grown everywhere where there is sun and farmers. This member of the nightshade family, with cousins as diverse as tomatoes, potatoes, chili-peppers and aubergines is sweet as a honeydew melon with a taste of pear. It is smooth-skinned, smelling sweet and as firm as a ripe plum. Its skin colouring is a pale-yellow with irregular purple slashes across the skin. The inner flesh is pale orange with soft edible seeds.
I have tried and failed to ripen this fruit in the garden for 5 long summers and this year I have succeeded, harvesting a fine basket of fruit. The reason for my perseverence, is the beauty of the plants, its flowers and lightly cream but unripe fruit dangling like freshly laid eggs. I never expected such a reward this year.
In this wide world of webbing, I have tried and failed to find someone who has discovered a fabulous way to serve a pepino, may alas no!
I, myself, hate the idea of cooking them. They seem drab and tasteless when heated. In my opinion this is a fruit that should be served raw, similar to an apple, eating both skin and flesh or in a salad. They look so pleasant with a fine but fragile taste but not inspiring enough to have me rush to the kitchen stove and start cooking. This morning I replaced my usual pear with a raw and peeled pepino in the blender with oat milk, banana and raw almonds for a heartening breakfast - I still feel the energy circulating in my blood vessels. This is the way to go!
Otherwise why not a seasonal pepino cocktail...
2 large Melon Pepinos
1 large handful of Physalis peeled
50cl prosecco or sparkling White Wine
4 small Mint sprigs chopped
Juice of one Orange
Peel and slice the pepinos thinly. Cut the physalis into quarters. Place the fruit in a bowl and with the mint and a good teaspoon of freshly milled black pepper. Pour over he orange juice and white wine and keep in the fridge a half an hour before serving.