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Growing Pepinos

Do you know about the perennial fruiting bush, pepino (Solanum muricatum) yet? It’s a beauty. It’s a shrubby climber or ground creeper originally from South America. We grow it throughout our orchard and are loving it’s fresh melon flavour and the fact it’s heaps easier to grow than melons (we live in a cool temperate climate).

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Pepinos (also known as pepino dulce) thrive in a temperate climate and are apparently quite frost sensitive. Saying that, we actually know someone south of Hobart who grows pepinos with strong frosts and occasional snow and it’s still doing really well. If you have strong frosts and still want to give it a go, I’d recommend planting it in the sunniest, most protected place in your garden ideally with some overhead coverage (vegetative or otherwise) to soften the impacts of frost.

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Being in the solanaceae family, they’re related to other fruits and vegetables including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers. The fruits vary in size, ranging from something like a large passionfruit to 15/20cm long (like the one below). Unsurprisingly, if you have good soil health and consistent moisture you’ll end up with nice fat pepinos. FYI, like lots of food plants they prefer a neutral’ish pH.

12814556_1109842649049979_3327797565833708388_nNice, fat and juicy

You know they’re ready to harvest when they turn yellow and develop some purple stripes/markings. It’s not recommended to pick them before this as they wont be as sweet. However when I have accidently knocked some off the bush, I’ve just left them on my kitchen bench to ripen over a few days and they still taste delicious – phew.

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Growing your own

Pepinos are wonderfully easy to grow and while you can grow them from seed they’re more commonly grown from cuttings.  Just take a cutting of around 10cm, leaving a small amount of leaf at the end, and place them in some soil mix with really good drainage. You can also layer them in the ground, which just means you lay one of the branches on top of the soil and bury a portion of it – this will inspire it to form roots. You can then cut it free from the original plant and move it to your desired area.

There are around nine different varieties available to people to grow (although I’ve only seen this one in Australia), so be sure to research what one grows best in your region.

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We eat them fresh and apparently you can eat their skin – but we don’t. You can include them in a fruit salad, on top of your morning porridge – basically treat them like a melon.

If you’re looking to create a low maintenance, productive garden, plants like pepinos are absolute gold. We’re slowly but surely growing more and more *perennial* edibles over annuals as they generally result in better soil health, high yields, less inputs and less time required from us. What’s not to love?!

Want to know more?

27 Responses to “Growing Pepinos”

  1. Katie

    Living in the Huon.. Do you know anyone down this way that may share/trade/sell a cutting or rooted section? X or whether I can buy them from a nursery somewhere? Thanks x

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Apparently the ‘Fork in The Road’ nursery in Margate sells them (or has in the past). So I recommend asking them – good luck!

      Reply
    • Gemma

      I grow them in Blackmans Bay. I’ll see if I can get some extra plants growing from cuttings.

      Reply
  2. Wendy Allison

    interested in growing. Although there is soil on the top of
    my ground it is clay underneath. Does anybody have them growing in similar ground?

    Reply
    • Lynne

      Hi Wendy. I’m growing mine in clay soil here in Swellendam South Africa. It’s growing really well. I prepared the hole with good compost. How is yours doing. I have mine now for 3 months

      Reply
      • Steven Narelle Kaiser

        Wendy we ours in a garden bed with potting mix about 12 inches (Stratco raised garden beds above clay in Caboolture.

        Reply
      • Doné

        Hi Lynne. I’m curious to know how your pepino plant/s have done since your last post here. Did it fruit well? How big did the plant get? How long did it last as a perennial? (I read that fruit production decreases in the second year). And lastly, where did you manage to get seeds/cuttings in South Africa?? (I’m from George!)

        Reply
  3. Sharon McIver

    I live up in Clarence Point and I am just about to go out and harvest my very first one, so looking forward to trying them, have no idea where I got my plant from

    Reply
  4. Kathleen Rodgers

    Could ine start a plant from grocery store fruit ? Would the seed be harvested like a tomato?

    Reply
  5. Pinky

    Just harvested mine today. It took 2 years for my little Bunnings plant to establish and finally flower. It’s a wonderful plant! Looks like it will strike cuttings easy too so will be doing that to share this beauty with my friends. It’s growing in a semi-sheltered spot that gets about 3 hrs of direct sunshine a day. So impressed with the output! I’m going to make something special with this first small harvest combines with pineapple sage. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Halina at Sidmouth

    We grew ours from cuttings this winter and they are fruiting well. Take the cuttings, put in a glass of water in a warm place. Change the water regularly and keep them there till the fine roots appear. Plant into a good potting mix and water well. Ours get sun most of the day.

    Reply
  7. Cheryl Young

    I have a beautiful plant, lots of flowers but only 1 fruit far has set. What am I doing wrong- have tried growing them in Melbourne, Swan Hill and have had the same problem. Grew them easily in Western highlands of PNG with loads of fruit all year round.

    Reply
  8. Fay J

    Watch out for wildlife eating these treats for you. My first two fruits sat on the plant growing happily until they were just on ripe. The night before I was going to harvest the biggest one, a possum ate it, and took a bite out of the second one but left the rest cos it easnt quite ready. They come inside for the last week or so now….

    Reply
  9. Dorothy

    We are in Hervey Bay, QLD, Australia. Have had the plant for quite a few years, and have pruned, moved and repotted it, but it will throw a few flowers that do not result in fruit.
    What can be wrong?

    Reply
  10. Frances

    Hello Hannah, what a surprise to find you have a web site! Love your guest presentations on ABC Gardening TV. I bought a plant at a church fund raiser. It sat there for months and didn’t budge, then when we got heaps of rain, it took off. However, only now is the fruit ripening. Thanks for your tips. Have you ever grown yacon?

    Reply
  11. Donna

    Hey Hannah
    I’m about to plant a whole bunch of cuttings under established fruit trees as a living edible mulch. Are you still growing you’re under fruit trees? Are there any negatives to this approach?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Hi Donna, As our trees have gotten bigger, I’ve stopped growing them under our fruit trees as they’re quite hungry and need more nutrients/water than what was available.

      Reply

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