(I'm writing this while at the local laundromat, which contains paintings of Darwin, Karl Marx (?), and an anonymous figure who looks clinically depressed, head in his hands. Just to explain if the tone of this post goes awry.)
Kiwano (aka horned melon, hedged gourd, and my personal favorite, blowfish fruit) is an extremely distinctive fruit. It's roughly fist-sized, oval, and is a bright orange color (or, inside joke to my field archaeologist friends, a "strong brown" tint). It also appears to be daring you to eat it--it's covered in multiple, fairly sharp thorns. So when I saw it in the Tops supermarket in Wysox, PA, I knew I had to try it.
I pretty much had it quickly, and proceeded to cut it open. The inside was unusual, too--4 chambers with light yellowish/whitish walls, filled with green, very seedy pulp. I dug in with a spoon. Then, after I ate half of it, I looked it up on the internet. Here's when I had a brief moment of terror. The first couple of mentionings of it on the world wide web posited whether or not the seeds were poisonous. I immediately kicked myself for being lazy and sloppy, perhaps with extreme consequences. I enjoy doing these short essays every week, but I don't want an obituary which relays how I accidently killed myself while trying out wacky foods. Well, since you're not reading this, letter by letter, on a Ouija board, you know I survived. Later websites confirmed that the seeds aren't deadly toxic. Which is a good thing, too--there are so many, and they're so mixed in with the pulp, that picking them out would be tediously time consuming.
Kiwano is of African origin, but now it is also cultivated in other hot climates, like in the Southern U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Chile. Westerners have been slow to embrace it (except for rural Pennsylvanians, evidently (!)). It's important to those that live in the Kalahari Desert, since it's a rare source of water during the region's dry season. Nutritionally it contains significant amounts of iron and magnesium, and smaller amounts of B vitamins, phosphorus, and zinc.
Anyway, kiwano was decent. The taste is tart, but not overpoweringly so, certainly not similar to a lemon. Others maintain it's like a cross of cucumbers, zucchini, and lemons, or like bananas, but I didn't agree with any of these. I wasn't dazzled by it, but it was alright. I wouldn't leap to buy it the next time I see it in the store (which if history is any indication, might be quite a long time), but I would probably pick one up again every now and then.
Additionally, like I was discussing before, it served as an important reminder that I should research exotics before consuming them, a lesson I should have already learned by now. Supermarkets don't always include warnings and detailed preparation instructions with their offered foods. And, most of us aren't callous dictators with food tasters on the payroll.