Sharply spiked, thorny, and clad in an arresting hue of traffic cone orange, it was clear that this alien fruit was coming home with me from the moment we first met. It was just too bizarre to put back down, despite its pointed protests.
The kiwano, otherwise known as a horned melon, is truly a sight to behold. It becomes even more alluring once cracked open, revealing downright monstrous innards of large seeds suspended in a jelly-like green morass. Best described as an African cucumber, the flavor is quite similar to this familiar vegetable. Some claim to taste notes of banana and lemon as well, suggesting that it would be well suited for both sweet and savory applications. Unfortunately, the truth is considerably more bitter: The gooey mess is impossible to eat out of hand, watery at best but entirely bland at worst, and overall, quite disappointing.
Talk about misjudging a book by its cover!
That said, it has its charm as an exotic garnish, based entirely on its unnerving, almost unnaturally neon hue. Shock and amaze your friends this Halloween by presenting them with a ghastly glass of rice pudding, topped by this exotic produce pick.
You can’t beat it for shock value, but truth be told… You wouldn’t be losing anything in the flavor department if you left out the kiwano. No recipe needed here, as any rice pudding formula will do the trick. However, consider this your warning: While the kiwano does have horns, it certainly won’t bite back.
Perhaps I jumped the gun a bit, but with such great temptation staring me straight in the eyes, my will to respect the seasons and their respective vegetative offerings was instantly reduced to zero. After a day of brilliant sunshine and even being able to leave my heavy winter coat at home, can you really blame me? I’m over winter, and considering the waning piles of dirty snow left on sidewalks, I think it’s finally starting to relinquish its icy grip, ever so slowly. Thus, when I saw those dazzling green pearls sitting alluringly in the refrigerated grocery case, shelled and ready to go, I snatched up that last parcel of fresh peas before anyone could talk me out of it. Enough beating around the bush- Let’s just get on with spring already.
To really honor such a lovely main ingredient, a brilliantly simple formula for pea soup sounded like just the thing to kick this season off right. Hardly even worthy of a written recipe, this is a dish that nonetheless is worth your attention, because it draws out the fresh, green flavor from each tender sphere, and allows them to shine. As a dish shared by Sue Cadwell, my boss, mentor, and best friend, I could hardly expect anything otherwise. A gentle swirl of vegan sour creme added the touch of richness I was craving, but it’s also perfectly delicious with a drizzle of olive oil to finish, or left entirely unadorned. If you wanted to liven things up, consider adding a splash of lemon juice, a pinch of smoked paprika, or a few springs of fresh mint, too.
Since shelling so many peas could be an endeavor requiring much more zen-like patience than the average person can manage, should shelled fresh peas be unavailable, go right ahead and substitute frozen. They’re just as tasty, if slightly less vibrant.
Fresh Pea Soup
By Health in a Hurry Chef/Owner Sue Cadwell
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
4 Cups Chopped Yellow Onions
4 – 7 Cups Vegetable Broth
2 Pound Fresh, Shelled Peas (or Frozen)
Salt, to Taste
Vegan Sour Creme, to Serve (Optional)
Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with the olive oil, and set over medium-low heat. Sauté the onions briefly, stirring well to coat with the oil, and add in 4 cups of the broth. Cover, and cook for approximately 20 minutes. You don’t want them to brown or caramelize at all, but cook down practically to mush. lid, cook until they’re mushy without browning.
Rinse peas under hot water and thaw if frozen. Toss them into the pot of onions and stock, and cook gently for 5 – 10 minutes until tender, if using fresh. For frozen peas, immediately turn off the heat and don’t let them cook much at all. You want to preserve that brilliant green color, and they’ve already been blanched prior to freezing so they’re pre-cooked.
Transfer the mixture to your blender and puree, adding more broth if desired until the soup reaches your ideal thickness. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the capacity of your blender. Add a pinch of salt and mix well. Top with “sour creme” to serve, if desired.
Makes Approximately 3 Quarts