Cultivation of kiwano under cover is an interesting challenge for experienced gardeners. Tropical fruit from Africa, it is also known as horned melon or horned cucumber. It features an oval shape, covered with marbled green skin, packed with sharp spines. It looks quite unfriendly but its unique taste makes its cultivation worthy.
Cultivation of kiwano under cover in a polytunnel
What is kiwano? It is an annual vine climbing plant from the cucumber family. The center consists of a light green flesh containing many small edible seeds. It can be eaten raw, added to desserts, fruit salads and meats. It goes well with fish and seafood, giving them a more pronounced taste. Flowers are small, yellow or pale yellow. The big advantage is that properly stored, this crop has a shelf life of 6 months, during which it remains fit for consumption. Plant shoots grow very quickly, reaching every available space, with a length of several meters.
This plant has a significant thermal requirement and will only grow properly at a temperature not lower than 15 ° C. Otherwise, growth processes are limited, with even death below 5 ° C. Therefore, cultivation in central Europe is only possible in greenhouses and polytunnels. It can be used as a forecrop for lettuce, radish or legumes. It is recommended to grow it in the first year after organic fertilization. Do not try to cultivate on the same site for 4-5 years following other cucurbitaceous vegetables.
Cultivating under cover requires a soil with humus, rich in macro- and micro elements, well-drained and quickly warming up, combined with regular irrigation. This is especially important during emergence and when fruits are created, as deficiencies can contribute to affect quality and quantity of crops. As the plant needs a lot of heat, the soil is usually covered with agro-fabric. This system slows down heat loss during days, nights and cold spells.
Kiwano cultivation can start a year after organic fertilization. Do not plant them where crops of the same family were grown. Only after 5 years, the site will be suitable again for another production with this species. In autumn, it is worth adding phosphorus and potassium fertilizers, and before cultivating (in spring), mix nitrogen fertilizer into the ground, even twice during flowering.
Planting, spacing and seedling
Seeds are sown in peat pots and then placed under a polytunnel at the turn of April and May. They usually germinate very slowly but after 6 weeks, they should be ready. Hardened seedlings with 5 leaves are planted in early June under cover. It is crucial for soil temperature to reach 15 ° C. The two available spacing options 60×60 or 100×50 will depend on the growing method. For 3 weeks, plants are additionally covered with reinforced, perforated, non-woven fabric or placed in a mini foil tunnel.
Plants in the early stages of development are prone to weeds. To prevent this, these unwanted species should be systematically removed. Their growth can be slowed down with agro textile. During the entire production, water shortage must be avoided, especially during flowering and fruit growth. Deficiencies can be spotted by falling flowers and fruit shrinking. Loosening of soil, pruning of shoots must also be implemented. Whenever favorable conditions arise, plants will develop at a frightening rate. Without control, it can overgrow all available spaces.
Harvest time for kiwano
As soon as fruit seeds appear, you don’t have to wait very long. Two weeks later, they should be ready to eat, provided of course that high temperatures remain. Harvests will last until the beginning of autumn, then the plant is removed. Make sure to proceed before frost, otherwise premature fruit rot and loss of taste will take place.
How to eat kiwano?
Pulp and seeds of the fruit are consumed together. A long teaspoon will be helpful. It can be added to fruit salads, meat and salads. The refreshing taste and aroma of banana is perfect for all desserts. The taste oscillates between the above mentioned banana and kiwi. It is this specific combination that attracts people. Rich in copper, manganese, potassium, zinc, magnesium and iron, it is recommended for people with heart problems and those suffering from hypertension.