Alan Hutching, Chief Grower and owner at Enzed Exotics, first saw a Kiwano horned melon back in 1985 and planted a commercial crop almost right away.
"I was fascinated with the Kiwano melon. I liked the look of it and I saw an opportunity," he explains. "I wanted to try it because I'd never eaten one, so I decided to grow some."
When asked about the risk of putting all his 'melons' in one basket he said that there is always a risk when dealing with Mother Nature, one bad season then you are destroyed.
"It is a big risk, but sometimes it is better to do one thing really well than to do a few things half-heartedly. You could do it all but there are only so many hours in the day. We used to grow watermelons but stopped that as the Kiwano is really taking off. The melons were just extra stress around Christmas. As soon as I saw the Kiwano, I though this is something special. Just looking at it, it is so different from anything else. The fruit this season is looking good, its only around five weeks till we can start the harvest."
The Kiwano season runs from mid January through to June or July if the weather stays warm.
Enzed Exotics are expecting around 50,000, 4.5kg trays this season.
"The weather has been excellent," says Vanessa Hutchings, Managing Director/owner at Enzed Exotics. "Mother Nature has been very kind to us this year, we have had exceptional growing conditions. A lot of sunshine hours through the spring and just enough rain to be able to seed the plants and give them that little boost. Not too wet not too dry, just right."
The Kiwano melons are not fully organic but are grown using natural growing practices.
"The reason we are not fully organic certified is that we don't own the land which we grow on and have to rotate the crops regularly, but being organic is definitely on our wish list," explains Vanessa.
The largest market for the Kiwano melons is the US and Enzed Exotics have been exporting there for many years, although Vanessa says that they pick up new markets each year. The couple were at the London Produce Show in June and have some people who are very interested in looking at the fruit, although nothing has been confirmed yet.
"We have the capability to up our output," says Vanessa. "I often say that the growing, harvesting and packaging of the Kiwano is the easy part, we can almost do that with our eyes closed. The difficult part is having the time and resources to commit to new markets and new customers."
Enzed Exotics only grow what they know they can sell, it is also good to keep it a niche product with lower volumes and higher prices.
"We have just grown our team quite a bit and we now have someone doing the marketing across social media. Part of this will focus on the health benefits of the Kiwano and also on how to eat it. This seems to be what most people struggle with, they are not quite sure what to do with it. When people open it they are surprised by the inside, the bright green flesh with a lot of seeds, just like a passion fruit, which are in jelly sacks that children love. The top flavour notes are banana, passion fruit and lime. Its refreshingly fruity!
Enzed will be first time exhibitors at this year’s New York Produce Show, 11th -14th of December to kick off their season in January. After a nearly 50% growth in U.S. sales since 2015, the company expects to see a continued upward trend in consumption of the Kiwano melon.
Visit them at booth #162 or email Savannah Blake at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.