Pepino, or Melon Pear from South America
Pepino has other names - mango cucumber, sweet cucumber, bush melon, melon pear. The plant belongs to the nightshade family and is a close relative of pepper, tomato, eggplant, physalis and potato. In appearance, pepino resembles several cultures at once: stalks, like eggplant, leaves often look like pepper leaves, less often - like tomato and potato leaves, and flowers just like potatoes. And, finally, the most important thing - pepino has unusual lemon-yellow fruits from ovoid to flat-rounded, with longitudinal lilac stripes, weighing from 150 to 750 g.
Pepino, or Melon Pear (Solanum muricatum) - an evergreen shrub of the Solanaceae family.
The pepino fragrance can already be felt by standing next to a plant hung with ripe fruits. Melon aroma, but still specific, reminiscent of strawberries and mangoes at the same time. The pepino pulp is yellow-orange, very juicy (like a ripe pear) and extremely tender, rich in carotene, vitamins B1, PP, and iron. Pepino fruits are unusually fresh. And melon pear jam is just a jumble.
An interesting story of this unusual vegetable. At the beginning of the XX century. in the vicinity of the city of Nazca (Peru), archaeologists found an ancient clay vessel copying pepino fruits in shape and size. Scientists suggest that this vessel dates back to the beginning of the first millennium BC. e. There are references to the ritual use of the fruits of the melon pear by the ancient Incas.
History of culture and domestic varieties of pepino
The melon pear was brought to France by the gardener of the Royal Garden of Paris in 1785, and in Russia for the first time they saw pepino in 1889 at the agricultural exhibition in St. Petersburg. Emperor Alexander III liked the pepino fruits so much that he ordered the plant to be grown in the imperial greenhouses. Interestingly, each seed at that time was worth 1 kopeck., And the rooted cuttings (stepson) - 1.5 rubles. At that time it was very expensive, given that the cow was then valued at 3 rubles.
However, during the years of the revolution, culture was forgotten. At the end of the 1920s, N.I. Vavilov and his students went on an expedition to South America for breeding material and gathered a rich collection of cultivated plants, including various forms of melon pear, but in the mid-1930s the culture practically disappeared.
Nowadays, melon pear is grown in Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Holland. According to Dutch experts, 30 kg of pepino fruits from 1 m can be obtained in greenhouses.2 (i.e. the same crop as pepper and eggplant).
In 1997, employees of the Gavrish agricultural firm brought pepino samples from Israel and Latin America. In the future, promising seedlings of Israeli pepino (variety Ramses) and Latin American pepino (variety Consuelo) of origin were selected.
Growing pepino at home
The biological features of the melon pear are also interesting. The plant is bush-shaped, with a huge number of stepsons, in terms of growth power comparable to eggplant. Lignified pepino stems withstand short-term frosts to minus 2-3 ºС. Due to the surface location of the roots, the plant is very demanding on water, especially the Consuelo variety, which suffers from a moisture deficit.
According to the requirements for soil, temperature and humidity, mineral nutrition, melon pear is very similar to tomato. Hence the mandatory agricultural practices - the formation of plants (in one, two, three stems), removal of stepsons, garter to a peg, trellis. With the formation of pepino in one stem, the fruits ripen a little faster, but they turn out less than when forming in three stems.
It is desirable that two plants in three stems or three plants in two stems grow on 1 m². During pepino flowering, good ventilation is important, for better pollination, light tapping with a stick on the trellis, like a tomato, and observing the temperature regime are necessary: at least 18 ° C at night (otherwise flowers, ovaries fall), no higher than 25-28 ° C during the day.
When gartering, it must be ensured that pepino stalks do not appear constrictions from tightly tied rope. You need to pinch plants often, timely break out the side shoots, and overgrown - it is better to cut with secateurs. Three fruits are usually tied on one hand, less often six or seven, but if you want to get large fruits, leave one or two fruits in the brush.
With significant differences in soil moisture during ripening, pepino fruits can crack like a tomato. Signs of fruit ripening: the formation of lilac stripes, yellowing of the skin, the appearance of melon aroma. The pulp of mature pepino fruits is extremely delicate, so you need to collect them very carefully.
The peel of a melon pear is strong, dense. Unlike pepper and eggplant, ripe intact fruits can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1.5 months (Ramses) and even up to 2.5 (Consuelo). Pepino fruits are able to ripen, but they contain less sugars than ripened on the bush.
Ramses pepino fruits are sometimes slightly bitter, but Consuelo does not. In general, the Pepino Ramzez is much more resilient than the Consuelo. However, in terms of quality and keeping quality, the latter is better. By the way, at the Ramses pepino, when fully ripe, a small net may appear, like a melon.
From germination to flowering pepino 75 days pass, from rooting of the stepson to flowering - 45-60 days (the earliest stepsons from the upper internodes), from flowering to full ripening - 75 days. In general, the vegetative period of pepino is 120-150 days, so sowing seeds, rooting stepchildren should be carried out (in central Russia) from mid-late February. Pepino seedlings do not stretch, but the first three to four weeks grow too slowly, they need light exposure.
In film greenhouses, plants are best planted at the end of May (formation is preferable to one stem). Pepino fruits usually ripen in August. Melon pear is a perennial plant and can live up to five years (like pepper and eggplant), but already in the second year the fruits are smaller.
The plant is well adapted for growing in a pot culture, subject to regular transshipment, compliance with diet, lighting and temperature. Last year, I grew a melon pear on the balcony (southeast side) and got delicious fruits.
Melon pear jam
Ripe pepino fruits are peeled, cut into pieces. 1 kg of fruit take 1 kg of granulated sugar, 1 tbsp. a spoonful of citric acid. The pulp is very juicy, so no water is added. With regular stirring, bring to a boil and cook for 3-5 minutes, set aside for 20-30 minutes, then bring back to a boil and cook for 3-5 minutes. And so several times, until the slices and syrup acquire a beautiful golden amber color. With longer cooking, pepino jam darkens and becomes less fragrant.
Author: N. Gidaspov