Solanum muricatum, Melon Pear

Melon pear – Solanum muricatum

It was on our visit to Heatherhill Herb Farm that I found a plant from my early childhood.  Strangely how one’s memory can go back for many decades  when triggered by smell or sight, yet now I can’t  remember where I have put the car keys, my spectacles or cell phone a few hours ago!

My memory of the Melon Pear goes back to Sabie where my parents had an extensive veggie patch and a gorgeous, rambling farm garden.   The ‘flower garden’ was filled with Azaleas, Hydrangeas, Hebes (they were called Veronicas in those days), Hollyhocks, carnations and all the old time favourites. The climate was moderate and they could grow all sorts of fruits like Avocado, Custard Apple, Paw paws, and Melon pears.  I can remember Melon pears having the most delicious taste, unlike anything else – there was a hint of spanspek but far more subtle, and  a hint of refreshing cucumber…

I have planted these treasured  ‘finds’  with great love and expectation, and they  have not let me down as they  produced  fruit en-masse. I’ve been watching some withering and falling off, but a few have matured into attractive pale yellow melon shaped fruit with purple streaks.  It  grows in a manner similar to its relative,  the tomato. Although it grows naturally upright  it needs some support.  It has a fast growth rate, bearing fruit within 4 to 6 months after planting. It is strictly a perennial, but often cultivated as an annual.  Insects seem to love it:  beetle and white fly are the worse culprits.

The ripe fruit of Melon pear

After  months of nurturing the day finally came to sample the first ripe one.  In anticipation I skinned the plump fruit and cut it into wedges for the family to taste.  What a disappointment, it is watery, the melon and cucumber taste is so diluted that hubby turned up his nose and said the space will be far better utilized for spinach!

Will I plant it again? I don’t think so, however idealistic dreams of the past are worth pursuing.