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African Horned Melon, part 1

This fruit has many names. It originated in Africa and has been called Horned Melon, Hedged Melon, Melano, and a few other names, the most amusing one being Jelly Melon and the most inexplicable one being English Tomato. The fruit made its way to New Zealand, where the name ‘Kiwano’ (a patented name) was added because they had such good luck getting the world to eat Kiwi fruit and thought Kiwano would catch on more quickly than African Horned Melon.

Whatever you call this fruit, it certainly is unusual.
The plant is similar to a cucumber or melon vine, which you can either allow to creep along in the garden or provide support. The fruits start out small and green, covered with horns. The young fruit is similar in color to the leaves, so it can be hard to spot and may come as a surprise while you are weeding or re-tying the vines. Ouch, yep, that was a horned melon all right. Each vine can produce up to 100 fruits. Ouch, there’s another one! As the fruits grow and ripen, they change from green to whitish, then yellow, and finally orange.
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Horned melons require very warm temperatures to produce a crop, so it’s best for many gardeners to start the seeds indoors. The seeds are a bit fussy about temperature and will not germinate until about 58 F.
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Once your outdoor weather stabilizes to above 60 F, you can transplant the small plants into the garden. Keep them well watered until established and add mulch once the soil warms to 75 F. I grew mine in a very large container in full sun, quickly learning that a strong support was needed – a tomato cage was not gonna suffice. The vines were well behaved at first, staying within the confines of the provided support. Later they tried to reach over the fence where the beans were growing.

As for disease and pests, all I can say is that my plants were not bothered by any insects. The mice, which always eat my strawberries, did not bother the horned melons. Near the end of the growing season, however, the vines suffered from wilt, as may happen with some other cucumber/melon relatives.

The plants do not like any amount of cold weather, so plan ahead to harvest before frost, but the fruit is very cooperative. Cold weather was approaching and I had to dash outside to harvest all the fruits even though they were still quite green. Here’s the good part: If the fruit is kept at room temperature, not refrigerated, it will ripen and will keep for several months. Yes, you read that correctly. Being a skeptic, I just had to do a test with a few of my fruits. Yes, it’s true. Some that were picked green in November lasted until early January at room temperature, no refrigeration.

Here, have a look and ripened just fine. Lovely color.Thumb of 2014-01-17/greene/b7f323
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As for the taste, hmmm. You can research and see what others think – that the fruit tastes like a cross between a cucumber/lemon/banana/zucchini. Some people hate it. Some are put off by the green color. Many don’t like fruit that looks like a medieval weapon. Or you can just dig in and taste for yourself. The type of seed you plant, the soil/temperature/growing conditions, and other variables all contribute something different to the taste of the fruit. To me, they tasted a bit like kiwi, but they were more fun to eat because I spit out each precious seed to save for next spring.

Each seed is surrounded by a lime green, jello-like sack (I don’t know the technical term). The entire fruit can be eaten: rind, pulp, seeds and all. They can be eaten at any stage of ripeness, from green to orange. The leaves can be cooked and eaten like spinach. (Nope, I did not try that!) The fruit pulp contains vitamins A and C and iron and fiber. As with any food crop, please know the source of your seeds as there are “cousins” of the edible horned melon that are quite bitter and inedible and possibly toxic.

I communicate daily with my Plant Sister who lives halfway around the world. It was she who first introduced me to the African Horned Melon. It was the trading of these seeds that started our friendship. She tells me that the rind of the Horned Melon is very high in Vitamin C. You can make Horned Melon Rind Tea rich in Vitamin C: Slice the rind, dry/dehydrate it, and store it in a glass jar in a dark cabinet. The seeds are available from Baker Creek and several other companies. If the seed package says ‘Kiwano,’ the fruit will likely be sweeter than an unnamed variety.

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I ate the Horned Melon with a spoon as a taste test, then later mixed the pulp with plain yogurt (excellent), in a smoothie (very good), on ice cream (no, not so much – I still prefer chocolate), and on cake (everything tastes good on cake!). A few ideas for later: Horned Melon Salsa or a lovely green sherbet. I am told that some people make a “Horned Melon Martini” and in the southern part of the U.S. they make a “Blowfish Melon Cocktail.” What’s next? “Jelly Melon Shooters”?

Almost forgot, yes, the pulp can be strained and made into jelly. I have GOT to try that one!
But for now I’m still working up the nerve to prepare Roasted Horned Melon as is done in their native country. Don’t think there is a recipe for that in mom’s Fanny Farmer Cookbook.

Edit: Update for the Horned Melon seeds planted Jan 30, 2014: 30 out of 36 seeds have germinated by Feb 5, 2014. These seeds were saved from the fruit grown in Savannah, picked in November while green, allowed to ripen indoors, and seeds cleaned by the fermentation method in water as for tomatoes.

Originally published March 2014

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Prickly Seed Pods

One year I removed some dry, prickly Leonotis nepetifolia seed pods – with my bare hands. Ouch!

Having learned from my mistake, the following year I harvested the prickly seed pods and attempted to remove the seeds while wearing gloves. Alas, I was not destined to be a brain surgeon and was all thumbs. I needed a better idea.

Rather than tell you my idea, let me show you in pictures. Follow along.

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Plastic (not glass!) container and a few small, heavy items. Mix well and shake.

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Seems that my camera has an ‘Anti-Shake’ mode, so no photo. Here, how’s this?

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That’s it! Your seeds can now continue drying and soon will be ready to share, trade, or plant. This also works for many other types of seed pods, prickly or not. So get shaking!!

Originally published 2013

VisitThe National Gardening Association (formerly All Things Plants) to learn more about Leonotis nepetifolia.



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Homemade dog food

DOG FOOD RECIPE; Home canned dog food

3 Lb. fresh Meat – chicken, duck, rabbit, turkey, beef, lamb, venison, liver, gizzards, heart or any combination thereof; if using ground beef it should have a high-fat content
Sweet Potato – 3 large, chopped
Fresh Spinach – 1 lb, uncooked
Fresh Peas – 1 lb, uncooked (or cooked garbanzo beans)
Oatmeal – 1 cup, uncooked (optional par-boiled barley)
Brown Rice – 2 cups, cooked
Fresh Eggs 4 large, lightly beaten
Egg Shells – 4 large, rinse and bake @ 350 for 10 minutes, process in blender until they look like fine sand
Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt – 1 cup
Fish Oil – ½ cup (Salmon oil or flax seed oil)
Fresh Parsley – ½ cup, finely chopped
Glucosamine – ¼ cup, powdered
Tomatoes – 3 large, chopped or diced
Dried Kelp – 10 Tbsp, crumbled
Fresh Garlic – 7 cloves, finely chopped (some may opt to omit garlic)
Water – 6 to 8 cups

In a large pot, boil 6 cups Water, add sweet potatoes and peas. Cook until tender.

Add meat, oatmeal, rice, fish oil, tomato, and garlic. Cook 40 minutes or until rice is done.

Add remaining ingredients, cook another 30 minutes, add water as needed for very thick, stew-like consistency. Remove from heat, immediately spoon into pint jars, top with lid, tighten band (do not over-tighten), process in pressure canner at 15 pounds for 90 minutes. (Follow directions for your pressure canner.) Cool completely, remove bands, check seals after 24 hours, store in cool, dry area.

Adjust ingredients to suit your dog’s dietary requirements; check with your veterinarian.

Note: I just bought an Instant Pot. Here is a link to homemade dog food cooked in an Instant Pot.

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Pudding, Southern Style Banana Pudding


3/4 C sugar
1/3 C flour (not self-rising)
dash of salt
3 eggs, separated
2 C milk
1 t vanilla extract
45 Vanilla Wafers…yes, you have to count them!
5 bananas, sliced

Heat oven to 350F.
Mix flour, salt, and 1/2 Cup sugar in the top of a double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten. Add milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and stir.

Set aside 12 Vanilla Wafers; they will be used as a garnish.

Working in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, spread a small amount of the custard on the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of Vanilla Wafers. Then add a layer of sliced bananas. Then a layer of the custard. Repeat the layers twice more. (Note: It’s a good idea to use a clear glass oven-proof bowl for making this so everyone can see the layers.)

Beat the egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar, keep beating until stiff peaks form. Spread the eggs whites over the custard, remember to seal all the way to the edges of the baking dish.

Bake. Keep an eye on it. You want the egg whites to just get a nice even brown, don’t let it burn. It might take 5 minutes, or maybe a few more minutes. Just keep watching for the nice brown color. Remove from oven. Let it cool a while. Refrigerate. Add the 12 Vanilla Wafers on top and serve.

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Pudding, Arrowroot Vanilla Pudding

(I like arrowroot because it doesn’t have a taste like flour or cornstarch.)

2 1/2 C milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 C honey, maple syrup or sugar
4 T arrowroot powder
1/4 t salt
1-2 T butter
1 1/2 t vanilla extract

Working in a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, milk, sweetener, arrowroot powder, and salt.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until pudding begins to thicken. Cook and stir 15-20 more seconds. Arrowroot works very fast to thicken.

Remove from heat, continue to stir until pudding is creamy. A spoon can be used to stir but a wire whisk makes creamier pudding.

Add butter and vanilla, stir until mixed.

Pour into serving dishes. Pudding can be served warm or cold. Don’t forget about the skin. Your choice, cover or don’t cover.

For more information about using arrowroot, check this link:…

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Pudding, Vanilla Pudding (without eggs)


2 1/2 C whole milk (half milk/half cream may be used)
3 T cornstarch
dash of salt
2 t vanilla extract
2 T butter (unsalted is best; if using salted butter, omit the dash of salt mentioned earlier)

Working in a heavy-bottom saucepan, pour 2 Cups of milk, sugar, and salt. Medium-low heat. Cook and stir just until mixture begins to steam. Do not boil.

In a bowl combine cornstarch and remaining milk, blend so there are no lumps. Add the cornstarch mixture to the hot milk mixture, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken. It should almost but not quite come to a boil. Reduce heat to low/very low, cook and stir for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla.

(I cheat and place the milk and cornstarch into a shaker jar, the kind used to make homemade powdered protein drinks, then pour through a strainer into the hot mixture while stirring constantly.)

This next part may start a fight at your house. Spoon hot pudding into small glass serving dishes. Immediately cover each dish with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on top of the pudding. That’s where the fight comes in. Some of us actually like that skin.

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Dog Treats that people can eat!

2 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 C of cooked pumpkin or cooked sweet potato pureed
3 T peanut butter
2 T dry powdered milk
3 C flour (whole wheat, barley, rice, etc.)

Combine eggs and pumpkin and mix well.
Add peanut butter and dry milk; mix well.
Gradually add flour a cup at a time to make a firm dough.
Divide dough into 2 parts.
Flour cutting board and roll dough to 1/2″ thickness.
For a crunchier treat roll to 3/8″ or 1/4″.
Use a cookie cutter or just cut with a knife into desired shapes.

Place treats on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
Bake at 350F for 20-24 minutes depending on thickness and oven temperature.
Allow treats to cool on racks before storing.

These are treats for dogs but people can eat them, too!

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Bran Muffin Batter

Make ahead; keep refrigerated.
In a large bowl combine:
6 C wheat bran
2 C boiling water
1 C shortening

Stir until shortening has melted; allow to cool before continuing.
Add 4 large eggs, mix well.
In a separate bowl mix together:
5 C all-purpose flour
3 C sugar
5 t baking soda

Add the dry ingredients to the bran mixture alternately with 4 C buttermilk; stirring after each addition.
Keep this batter in a covered container in the refrigerator. the recipe will make 48-60 muffins.

The batter should be made a day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator to allow ingredients to blend.

When ready to make muffins, preheat oven to 400F.
Either grease muffin tins or use paper liners.
Mix raisins, shredded apple, currants, dried (unsweetened) cranberries, chopped dates, and/or shredded carrots into some of the batter. Fill each muffin only 3/4 full. Before baking, I like to sprinkle the top of each muffin with a good amount of white sugar. Makes a nice, crunchy topping. Bake 18-22 minutes. Note: If making the mini-size muffins, adjust baking time, maybe 12-14 minutes. Test for doneness using a toothpick.

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Pudding, Chocolate/Avocado Pudding

This is as easy to eat as it is to eat! And the one thing you hardly taste is the avocado.

It’s like magic pudding.

2 avocados; peeled, pitted, cut into cubes (Hass if you have them.)
1/2 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 Cup brown sugar (light or dark); (or alternate sugar of your choice)
1/3 Coconut milk (or substitute ‘milk’ of your choice)
2 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of sea salt
Chuck everything into a blender or food processor. Chill. Serve. How hard is that?!

Check online to see the many variations, some add peanut butter, some use date sugar or agave syrup, at least one adds a banana; lots of possibilities.

Note: Hass avocado named after Rudolph Hass.

But why choose between only two types of avocados. There are lots of different avocados depending on where you live and what the season is and in which hemisphere you are shopping/growing. I’m not sure if the list of avocados will ever be complete; here, check this out:…

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Cajun Fried ‘Gator

1 lb boneless ‘gator, fresh or frozen
2 T Cajun seasoning
1 t garlic powder
1 C buttermilk
1 large egg
1 t spicy mustard
5 dashes Frank’s Louisiana hot sauce (or hot sauce of your choice)
3 C lard, or vegetable shortening
2 C flour

Pat the ‘gator meat dry and place in a medium bowl. Season with the Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, and hot sauce, and toss to coat evenly. Cover and marinate 20 minutes at room temperature.
Remove the alligator from the dry spices.
Heat vegetable shortening in a large cast iron skillet to 350°F or use an electric deep fryer.
In a separate bowl whisk together the buttermilk, mustard, and eggs. Whisk well. In another bowl add the flour and season with Cajun seasoning.
Dip the alligator in the flour and shake off excess. Dip into the buttermilk mixture and shake off. Then dip back into the flour and shake off. Repeat this process until all the ‘gator meat is coated.
Add the ‘gator pieces to the skillet in batches being careful not to overcrowd the skillet.
Cook the ‘gator, using tongs to turn occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the temperature of the oil, making sure the oil does not get too hot. Transfer the ‘gator to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat the process until all the ‘gator is cooked.

In the Savannah area you can buy ‘gator meat from Trapper Jack here: