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thorn melon farming in Kenya: Farmers smiling all the way to the bank

Thorn melon, commonly known as Kiwano is a strange looking fruit that originated from South Africa and has of late been introduced to other parts of the world. It picked its name  Kiwano from Kiwi in New Zealand  due to its consistency and appearance to kiwi. However, this fruit is not biologically linked to kiwi and is actually closer in nutritive and evolutionary terms to cucumber and zucchini.

The name “thorned melon” comes from the fruit’s unusual appearance, as the outer layer of orange or gold skin is covered in small spikes. The inside of the fruit does have the gelatinous appearance of a kiwi, but the inner layer of fruit pulp is a culinary ingredient. The leaves and roots are also used for various applications, but the fruit is the most highly prized. Its seeds contain high concentrations of beneficial nutrients and organic compounds that make the fruit so healthy.

A number of Kenyans have embraced this fruit as it is believed to lower blood pressure and sugar level. Its therefore a money maker fruit and a number of farmers have benefited from it. According to Mureithi a farmer in Kiambu, kiwano sells between 25 and Ksh 30. He however notes that market fluctuates depending on supply. When there is high demand a kilo of thorn melon goes fo Sh 90 and when the demand is low it goes below to Ksh 70.

Benefits Of Planting Thorn Melon

The healthy benefits are overwhelming as highlighted below. For those interested in making money, this is why you should plant it:

  1. it’s a drought resistant plant and does not require a lot of water
  2. its labor friendly. Even when unattended it will still yield
  3. One plant can yield between 30 to 40 or more depending on care
  4. The market is readily available. One peace goes for between 10 bob to 30 bob depending on where and it’s a hot cake for those who understands the benefits
  5. it can thrive in almost all areas

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How Thorn Melon Is Used Across The World

  • The green jelly-like flesh can be taken with little sugar, or with exotic fruit salad. It can also be utilised like an alternative to vinegar in salads.
  • The fruits are also used for ornamental purposes.
  • Used in beverages and at times spooned over desserts, ice creams and yoghurts to have an exceptional taste.
  • Its leaves are medicinal and are often served cooked as the heat is said to slightly lessen the bitterness in the greens.
  • When cooking, the bitter melon leaves are added last to inhibit an overly bitter taste and can be served with rice. The leaves can also be used in curries, fries and soups.
  • The leaves are at times mixed with maize or corn meal and can also be used to make a medicinal tea. Younger leaves which have a milder flavour and delicate texture can be used in salads.
  • In some countries, the leaves are used as an anti-viral for measles and malaria, diabetes, hypertension and to aid in childbirth.
  • In some cultures, various parts of the bitter melon plant, including the leaves, are used as a contraceptive as they have been shown to have an anti-fertility effect in both males and females.
  • Boiled roots are also used to treat gonorrhoea in some cultures, according to research.

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Health Benefits of Thorn Melon

Thorn melon has many benefits as discussed below:-

Weight Loss

Considering that this fruit is more than 80% water, it has the ability to fill you up without packing on any pounds. People trying to lose weight without feeling hungry all the time often reach for a kiwano to stave off hunger pangs. The high concentration of nutrients also keeps your body nutrient-rich, even though the fruit is low in calories and fats.

Antioxidant Properties

There are high levels of alpha-tocopherol found in kiwano, which is a potent antioxidant form of vitamin E. This is very important for the health of nerves and blood vessels, while it also seeks out and neutralizes free radicals, the harmful byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause everything from heart diseases to cancer.

Eye Care

The significant levels of vitamin A found in kiwano make it an important booster for vision health. Vitamin A is a type of carotenoid, which acts as an antioxidant for the eye, eliminating free radicals that can cause macular degeneration, while also slowing down or preventing the development of cataracts.

Improves Cognitive Function

Although different nutrients can positively affect the brain, vitamin E is specifically linked to slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The high levels of tocopherol variations in kiwano make it a favorite amongst all who want to keep their minds fresh.

Boosts Metabolism

Zinc is a mineral that is often overlooked in human health, but it plays a key role in metabolism and producing protein, which is necessary for wound healing and repair of organs, tissues, blood vessels, and cells. The high content of vitamin C is a perfect complement to the zinc found in kiwano, as ascorbic acid is a key component of collagen, which is another key material in repair and growth.

Slows Aging

Between vitamin A, C, natural antioxidants, and abundant organic compounds, kiwano is wonderful for staying young, both inside and out. It is known to protect the integrity of the skin and reduce age spots and wrinkles, in addition to lessening the appearance of scars and blemishes. These important nutrients keep the body younger by preventing the onset of chronic diseases through their intense antioxidant activity.

Relieves Stress & Anxiety

Research has connected some of the organic compounds in kiwano with the regulation of hormones, particularly adrenaline and other stress hormones. If you suffer from chronic stress or feel anxious, eating some kiwano can quickly ease your mind and get your body back to a calm, relaxed state.

Aids in Digestion

The high fiber content in kiwano makes it an ideal digestive aid. Dietary fiber helps to stimulate peristaltic motion and clear out the gastrointestinal tract, keeping your bowel movements regular and preventing cramping, bloating, constipation, and serious conditions like gastric ulcers or colon cancer. Dietary fiber is also a key element of heart health, as it helps to regulate the level of cholesterol in the body; it even helps to regulate insulin receptors, thereby preventing or managing diabetes.

Increases Bone Strength

Kiwanos are also turned to for their high mineral content, particularly for calcium, in order to boost bone strength and prevent the onset of osteoporosis.  While the other minerals in kiwano, including zinc, are important for bone development, growth, repair, and integrity, calcium is the most desirable mineral for our bone health.

 

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How to make millions from watermelons farming

Any successful agribusiness in Kenya is either derived through dream, vision, hobby, passion or money. Every person has a dream, some of them from childhood. However, unless you act on your vision/dream, it will remain to be that; dream. Some of you would like to grow watermelons and do not know how.

Watermelons are very popular in Kenya and one bite into a sweet, juicy watermelon can make you smile. It has a high demand, which makes it a profitable fruit to grow. With a growing concern among Kenyans to stay healthy, watermelons are an instant favorite as they are mostly made of water, are plenty in nutrients and are low in calories. The best part is growing watermelons in Kenya is easy, you can reap a lot of profit from a mere acre of land. Watermelons need space to grow because of their vines, so make sure you space them well. Here is how to grow watermelons in Kenya.

soils

Watermelons are known to do well in sandy loam soils that are slightly acidic and well-drained. When watermelons are planted on heavy soils, they develop slowly, making the fruits size and quality to be inferior.
Temperatures
Watermelons do well in temperatures ranging between 220 and 280 C. Cold temperatures below 150C may cause stagnation of fruits.

Rainfall

Optimum rainfall requirement per cropping season is 600 mm and 400 mm is considered minimum. Excessive humidity may favor leaf diseases and also affect flowering.

Propagation

Watermelons are commonly direct seeded, except under conditions where the growing season is short, whereby transplants raised in containers are used. For the direct seeded, the planting depth is about 2cm and between row spacing is 1.5-1.8m, while the intra-row spacing is 30-60cm.

Transplants

Instead of planting directly in the field and have 3 weeks of accumulated weeds germination and insect attacks to battle with, planting of seeds in seed trays in a protected area for later transplant into the field when at least 2 permanent leaves have developed, is a very viable option. Watermelon is grafted in some production areas

Application of Fertilizers

Application of nitrogenous fertilisers is based on soil type. Soils with high organic matter require 80kg N/ha, while light soils require 140kg N/ha.
The nitrogenous fertiliser should be applied and incorporated into the soil at planting time. Phosphorus and potassium applications are based on soil tests, and both should also be applied at the time of planting.

Pollination of Watermelons

Watermelons produce separate male and female flowers. Male flowers are produced initially, followed by production of both sexes usually at a ratio of 1 female to 7 males. Watermelon flowers are viable for only one day hence important to have pollinating insects.

Weeding

To be done regularly to keep the field clean. Avoid injuring the plants when weeding. Fruit pruning-Remove blossom-end rot fruits to promote additional fruit set and better size of the remaining melons. If a market demands larger melons, remove all but three or four well shaped melons from each plant. To avoid disease spread, do not prune melons when vines are wet.

Read: Ksh 2000 for an Apple? Here are the most expensive fruits in the world

Harvesting

If a farmer wants to know whether watermelons are ripe and ready for harvesting, he should tap their tough covering with his finger. If they produce a dull sound, it means they are ready. You can also check the bottom part that lies on the ground; if it’s yellow, the fruit has ripened.
One acre of land if given the care as it is required should produce 15,000 fruits that weighs between 8Kg to 12 Kg or more, depending on the variety. Assuming you get 10,000 fruits in your first harvest, you can easily make Ksh 1,300,000 if you sell at Ksh 100. Watermelons can be harvested twice an year making it possible to make millions. Waste no time, invest in agribusiness as it is the future.

Read: Water storage can help farmers during dry seasons

Storage

Ensure minimum handling of melons, as extra handling is expensive and may harm the fruits.
Rotation-Watermelons can be rotated with cereals, legumes or cabbages

Pests

  • Whiteflies
  • Aphids
  • Flea Beetles
  • Red spider mites
  • Diseases

  • Damping-off diseases
  • Root-knot nematodes
  • Powdery mildew