The thorny melon, a once-neglected fruit in Kenya, has gained popularity due to its endorsed health benefits and the recommendations of doctors. With its ability to slow down the aging process and boost the immune system, this spiky and unusual fruit is now being embraced by farmers and consumers alike.
Meru County stands out as a prime example, where farmers are allocating land for thorny melon cultivation and reaping its rewards.
The Curious Journey of Thorny Melon
Originally dismissed for its unappealing appearance and taste, thorny melon is now gaining traction due to its exceptional health benefits.
The fruit takes between 28 and 45 days to reproduce and matures within two weeks. With increasing demand, farmers are returning to its cultivation, motivated by its newfound popularity and nutritional value.
Embracing Thorny Melon in Meru
Meru County has become a hub for thorny melon cultivation, with farmers like Fred Mutura dedicating an entire acre of land to this fruit.
Introduced to the fruit by a friend, Mutura’s interest was piqued by its unique characteristics and potential health benefits. Despite initial skepticism from his peers, he persevered, finding that thorny melon trees require minimal insecticides, making it a cost-effective crop to grow.
Overcoming Challenges and Establishing a Market
Mutura faced challenges in finding a market for thorny melon, as local residents were hesitant to try this unfamiliar fruit. However, he managed to attract customers from western Kenya who recognized its nutritional value. With persistence and patience, Mutura now sells the fruit at competitive prices and aims to further expand his market reach.
Nutritional Value and Health Benefits
The yellowish-green pigment found in thorny melon seeds and pulps contains Vitamin A, which strengthens the immune system, repairs DNA, and slows down the aging process. Dr. Peter Kiambi, a private medical practitioner in Meru, advocates for consuming thorny melon as a cost-effective way to obtain essential nutrients and micronutrients.
Future Prospects and Collective Farming
Motivated by his success, Mutura is mobilizing farmers to join him in cultivating thorny melon and form a farmers’ interest group. This collaboration aims to access government funds and credit opportunities.