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Plant Information

Scientific Name: Cucumis metuliferus
Alternative Names: Jelly Melon, Kiwano, Rooi-agurkie, Rooikomkommer (Afr.), Mokapana (Tswana)

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Cucumis metuliferus
Cucumis metuliferus
Cucumis metuliferus
Cucumis metuliferus


  • Annual
  • African horned cucumber is a traditional food plant indigenous to Southern and Central Africa.
  • It grows naturally in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland.
  • Today it is grown for its ornamental and edible fruits all over the world including New Zeeland where it was registered under the trademark Kiwano.
  • African horned cucumber is a self-fertile climber with tendrils and hairy leaves and stems and bears white or yellow flowers.
  • The soft-shelled fruit (covered with prominent spines), is about 10cm. in length and turns yellow-orange when ripe.
  • It is grown as an annual in cold areas and needs well-drained soil, regular watering and support to climb on.
  • A single vine can produce up to 100 fruits.

Culinary Uses

  • African Horned Cucumber can be eaten at any stage of development - young, mature green or when ripe.
  • Its taste has been compared to a combination of cucumber and zucchini or a combination of banana, cucumber and lemon.
  • The fruit's juicy flesh is green and translucent and contains a lot of seeds covered in a gelatin-like substance and it has a slight sweetness.
  • It can be eaten fresh/ made into juice/ cut open, sprinkled with sugar/salt (to enhance flavor) and scooped out of the shell with a spoon/ or used in fruit salad.
  • A jelly can be made from the fruit by boiling it until soft, straining it and boiling the fruit pulp again with a cup of sugar for each cup of water.
  • The fruit can also be cubed and pickled in vinegar.
  • The seeds are edible and some eats the skin as well.
  • The fruit has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable land care.
  • The Khoisan is reported to roast the food and then strain the flesh.
  • The leaves are cooked as spinach or mixed with maize meal. Roodt (1998)

Parts Used

  • The leaves, roots and fruit.
  • The fruit need to be carefully handled because of the sharp spines on the skin.

Medicinal Uses. It is said that

  • The skin of the African Horned Cucumber is very rich in vitamin C and fiber.
  • The fruit contains saponin - a kind of oily glycoside that foams freely when shaken with water.
  • Roodt (1998) reported that in the Okavango area, the Shona tribe used a decoction of the root for relief of pain after childbirth.
  • It is also alleged that the boiled root is a very good gonorrhea cure.

Other Uses

  • African horned cucumber lacks the layer of firm flesh found in cultivated cucumbers and contains proportionately more moisture - therefore it provides a useful source of water for humans and animals in arid areas.
  • Birds, rodents, primates and small antelopes (e.g. steenbok) eat the juicy ripe fruit.
  • Spiritual uses: Tribes living in the Okavango believe that one can prevent ghosts or evil spirits from entering one's house by pounding the roots, mixing them with fat and smearing them onto the body.
The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only. This site merely recounts the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner.

Mountain Herb Estate, and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of this site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Mountain Herb Estate, its affiliates and staff
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