Horned Melon (Kiwano)

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 18 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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a horned melon before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat horned melon?

Because horned melon is full of large edible seeds that are impossible to pick out, the fruit is best introduced after your baby is at least 18 months old. If you are really anxious to introduce the fruit to your baby before then, it would be wise to pulverize the pulp and seeds in a powerful blender to reduce the choking risk. Otherwise, it’s best to wait until your child has advanced chewing and swallowing skills. And always purchase horned melon from a reputable source as there are ornamental bitter varieties that are toxic to mammals.1

Horned melon is also known as African cucumber, blowfish fruit, English tomato, hedged gourd, kiwano, jelly melon, and spiked melon. While all parts of the fruit are edible—rind, seeds, and pulp—the fruit is mostly sought out for its gelatinous interior, which tastes like a cross between a cucumber and mild kiwi. When ripe, the spiky fruit has a vivid orange skin, and once you cut into it, surprise! The inside is a bright emerald green. 

Max, 18 months old, tastes horned melon for the first time. To make it easier to eat, you can put the gelatinous, seedy pulp on top of ricotta, yogurt, or even shredded meat.
Adie, 18 months, eats horned melon out of the rind. All parts of the horned melon are edible though the interior pulp is what it is most commonly eaten for.

Is horned melon healthy for babies?

Yes. Horned melon actually contains a fair amount of protein in the seeds, along with vitamin C, copper, iron, and zinc—all critical nutrients for growing babies. In fact, one horned melon (seeds and pulp) contains a whopping 2.4 mg of iron (22% of your baby’s daily needs) and 100% of your baby’s daily needs for omega-3 fatty acids. Hopefully, your little one won’t eat that much horned melon in one sitting, since the fruit also contains fiber, which inevitably leads to, well, poop. 

Is horned melon a choking hazard for babies?

It can be, because the edible seeds are impossible to separate from the jelly-like interior. (Many adults who regularly eat horned melon spit out the seeds.) Though the seeds are thin and flat, it is best to hold off on serving horned melon until your baby is 18 months or older or to eliminate the choking risk by pulverizing the seeds and flesh into a smoothie in a powerful blender. 

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is horned melon a common allergen?

No—horned melon is not on the list of common food allergens. However, individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also referred to as “pollen-food syndrome”) may be sensitive to horned melon.

As with all new foods, introduce by serving a small quantity of horned melon pulp and watch closely as your baby eats. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.

How do you prepare horned melon for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 18 months old: If you are keen on introducing this tricky melon at this age, it’s best to just pour the liquid-like interior into a bowl and let your child finger paint with it. If you want to pick out the edible seeds to be extra cautious, you might be able to achieve that with fish tweezers, though be prepared for it to be tedious and time consuming. Either way, the melon’s pulp will be best consumed on top of something else, such as yogurt, ricotta cheese, or even braised meats.

18 to 24 months old: At this age it can be fun to introduce the whole melon, cut in half, for your toddler to scoop from. Start by washing the spikey rind to rid the flesh of any contaminants that may get inside when you cut it open. Then cut any too-sharp spikes off the melon and then cut the melon at the equator. From here, let your baby scoop out the gelatinous flesh with their fingers or drink from the melon like a cup. Horned melons are also great additions to smoothies. Just scoop out the slimey green interior, seeds and all.

For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.

★Tip: Horned melon has an excellent shelf life and should not be refrigerated as it is a cold-sensitive fruit and will expire more quickly in cold temperatures.2

Recipe: Horned Melon Cups (18 Mos+)

  • 1 horned melon

Wash the exterior of the horned melon. Cut off any sharp spines on the outside of the rind so the melon is easier to handle. Slice the melon in half at the equator. Serve one half of the melon to your baby and encourage hand-scooping or even drinking. Both the rind and the inner seeds are edible, but the green, jelly-like pulp is what you are after.

Flavor Pairings: Horney melon is a bit like a tropical cucumber, with hints of bland banana and kiwi notes wrapped up in slimy jelly. Most people eat horned melon on its own, but it pairs well with tropical fruits such as banana, coconut, kiwi, and pineapple. It’s also surprisingly tasty on braised beef. You can also use horned melon to make salsa, serve atop salads, and add to ice cream as your child grows older.

  1. Kiwano, Purdue University, Center for New Crops and Plant Products. (website) Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  2. Cantwell, Marita. Storage of Kiwano (Horned Melon) fruits, UC Davis. Retrieved February 3, 2020.