Properties and Benefits of Pepino: Related to potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers and chili peppers, pepino (Solanum muricatum) is a sweet, melon-like fruit and a great source of essential nutrients, dietary fiber and antioxidants.
Pepino is a fruit in the potato family, also known as Solanaceae. Common names include pepino melon, pepino dulce and melon pear and have to do with the fruit’s sweet, melon-like taste. The plant producing it looks very much like a tomato plant with visibly more elongates, pointy leaves. Because of its weak stem, the species often has to be erected on metal or wooden poles or left to vine over other plants so as to avoid the fruit touching the ground and spoiling.
What does pepino look like? Pepino fruit are small, oval-shaped and about the size of an apple or a medium-sized orange. They have a thin, light golden skin covered in purple stripes. The flesh is golden yellow with a two-chamber, partly hollow middle area housing the tiny, light-gold seeds. Before reaching maturity, that is when still unripe, pepino melons are light green with purple stripes. You might find it interesting to know that unripe pepino fruit look very much like unripe tomatoes.
What does pepino taste like? The pepino fruit tastes a lot like a not-so-sweet cantaloupe with faint cucumber, pear or banana flavors. In fact, it is only mildly sweet and, if not perfectly ripe, may even seem bland. The flesh has a cucumber and melon-like texture and can be easily scooped out with a spoon. What does pepino smell like? Ripe pepino has a mild honeydew melon fragrance that can almost pass unnoticed to an untrained nose.
While they may not be as fragrant and sweet as other exotic fruit, pepino melons are quite thirst-quenching and surprisingly healthy. Here are the top 3 nutrition facts and health benefits of pepino:
1) Good source of vitamins and minerals. Pepino fruit contain good amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A and its provitamin, the antioxidant carotenoid, beta-carotene. In addition to antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties, these nutrients keep blood vessels clean of cholesterol, maintain the elasticity and youthful apearance of our skin, contribute to strong, healthy bones and protect against oxidative stress.
Moreover, pepino fruit contain good amounts of essential minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium, all of which further contribute to keeping in good health.
2) Rich in antioxidant phytochemicals. Like most fruits and vegetables, pepino melons are a rich source of phytochemicals, natural chemical compounds found in all plant forms. Phytochemicals in general possess quite amazing antimicrobial, antithrombotic, antioxidant and cancer-preventive properties. Those in pepino have been found to boost the immune system, regulate blood pressure, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and improve HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Moreover, they appear to exert a powerful anti-inflammatory action and regulate blood sugar levels.
3) Good source of dietary fiber. In addition to lowering LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, the dietary fiber in pepino helps our digestive system function better. This is because dietary fiber helps shorten (or, better said, normalize) intestinal transit time, leading to normal bowel movements, constipation and hemorrhoids prevention.
If you happen to come across pepino melons in the supermarket and they have a reasonable price, try them. They are worth a taste, not to mention they are healthier than the processed foods, baked goods and sugary candy available at every corner of the street. If scooping it out with a spoon and eating it as it is sounds too dull, you can spice pepino up by adding it to a kiwifruit and pears salad seasoned with lime and a bit of brown sugar.