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    High Yield

    As one enters the home of Jesse Kiorio, his wife Kezia is singing in Kikuyu while tendering to rare sweet bloody and yummy maroon ‘flowers’ surrounding their houses.

    A closer look reveals they are tree tomatoes, which she has grown outside her shamba after realizing that they do not need much lower space is they are ‘fed’ well with nutrients and water.

    But there is more to space-the fruits are earning her some good coins with a kilo selling at Sh100. Keziah says the tree tomato, which is also called tamaillo, has never disappointed her since she adopted grafted variety.

    The grafted type is tolerant to low moisture content in addition to high yields as well as prolonged production period of up to 10 years.

    “One tree can give about 30 fruits at a time. I need six to seven fruits to make one kilo, will earn between Sh100 and Sh140, depending on the demand,” she says.

    One tamarillo tree buys sackful maize

    Entry into their farm reveals that the tamarillo has invaded every portion of the farm including the tea field.

    But Kezia has a good reason for this: “One tree can give about 20 kilogrammes per year. Selling each kilo at Sh100, that translated to Sh2,000 With one tree I can buy a 90kg maize bag,” she says.

    A maize farmer will require a large piece of land to produce a 90kg bag of maize.

    She has about 300 trees and more seedlings are available for sale.

    Does well

    Even after the February-March depresses rain, the fruits have done well, with most of them having more than 20 fruits.

    “We graft hybrid tamarillo with bitter leaf to give rise to a drought tolerant variety. The seedlings are also nematode resistant, making them better than hybrid one,” she says.

    Together with her husband, they sell the seedlings at Sh200 raised in a greenhouse.

    For high productivity, the Nyeri County based-farmer says digging a hole of three feet before filling it with compost manure would allow for longer retention of water in the soil for continuous production even on dry spells.

    For seedlings others enquirers, Keziah can be reached on +254722535987

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    Mr. Jesse Kioria tending to his pepino fruits
    Mr. Jesse Kioria tending to his pepino fruits
    Renowned Prof Wangari Maathai became an environmental global icon for daring into places where other people were running away from.

    A few hundreds of metres from the home of this global environmental ‘humming bird’ at Tetu in Nyeri County, is a couple that is harvesting more than Sh60,000 monthly from pepino melons fruits, which other farmers have shied away from.

    Jesse Kioria and his wife Keziah delved into this seldom grown fruit after realizing the demand was rising and the supply was, and is still “very low”.

    Seedlings

    Besides selling the fruits, the couple also distributes seedling to farmers ordering from various parts of the country. In fact, when Farmbiz Africa visited, he was talking to an excited Migori County farmer who had received and planted the seedlings a few days earlier.

    His greenhouse has about 10,000 seedlings in his greenhouse, ready for trans-planting; he sells each at Sh200.

    High yield

    From his 500 or more bushes of pepino melon, he gets at least four mature fruit monthly, totaling to about 2000 pieces. To the local people, he sells each at between Sh30 and Sh50, but when he brings them to Nairobi, he gets up to Sh100 a piece.

    With much of the market being urban, he easily hits Sh100,00 in a month.

    “I have not met the demand for this ‘wonder fruit’.  I have been forced to turning down orders from supermarkets and other large-scale distributors because they need quantities I cannot offer. I do not want to disappoint them,” Kioria said.

    Health benefits

    Pepino melon has large deposits of vitamin A, C, K and B. It is also rich in minerals such as copper and iron which are essential in blood formation and boosting immunity. Potassium in the fruit helps in lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow and central nervous system coordination.

    Pepino is also diuretic- it accelerates passage of urine, therefore, appropriate for diabetic patients.

    “Most of those who buy from me locally have been asked by doctors to eat the melon to boost recovery from a host of chronic infections such as diabetes, cancer, among others,” he said.

    How to grow

    Pepino melon does well drained and fertile soils. Given that the plant is herbaceous, it may require support to keep fruits above the ground.

    In an acre, one can grow about 4900 sticks at a spacing of 3 feet by 3 feet. With proper crop management and rains or irrigation when it is a bit dry, every plant can yield six to eight mature fruits per month at a time.

    Kiorio enjoys high harvests during rainy seasons, although the season-less crop does not disappoint him completely.

    He regularly applies mulch, manure and fertilizer  to retain water moisture, and soils fertility.

    He can be reached on +254722535987.

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