Special Sub-Topic: The Mighty Kiwano
|The Kiwano sits quietly in the fruit boxes of Somerfield, waiting for you with the patience of the proverbial saint. It wants you to walk past, wants you to look at it and be mesmerised by its exciting visuals. The sticker glistens as you wander by, innocently eyeing up the dates and pondering whether Medjool or dried are the best option. You see it. The distinctive colour, the unusual shape... please, describe this magnificent yet quintessentially evil fruit to me?|
Bright orange, oval, with protruding horns and darkened spirals adorning the rind.. You may have noticed that in the other three options, I described another tropical fruit, albeit three much more common ones - the purple "dented" passion fruit, the orange lobed persimmon, and the large and unwieldy pomelo.
The Kiwano itself is not a large fruit, but is mightily impressive to behold - although it is only about the size of a grapefruit, the swirled orange surface of the fruit are appealing to most humans. Animals, however, do tend to be warned off by the spiky exterior and bright colour. It suggests the fruit is poisonous...
|It may look like it came from a different planet, and yes, it does want to invade your house and take over your garden given half a chance, but the Kiwano is no alien species.
In fact, this shifty little fruit comes from much closer to home than you may care to think. Although it is now grown in most temperate countries around the world, the devious and astoundingly sadistic Kiwano originally came from this area...|
Kalahari Desert, Namibia. In their natural habitats, Kiwanos grow on long vines, which have a rather bad habit of cropping up in ditches along the side of the road, and in other arid areas where they can just become a nuisance. The vine itself looks much like that of a melon or a courgette, with soft, downy leaves and long, fine stems. Although it may seem fragile, the growth habit of the plant is over-vigorous, and can quickly take over your greenhouse. It did mine...
|With its interesting exterior and often heavy price tag, the deceitful Kiwano lures you to its insides, offering flavour and zest far beyond what this fruit can offer. A freakish outside belies a disappointing secret, for the Kiwano tastes much like another, much blander fruit. Little wonder, as it is part of this family... |
Cucumis (The cucumber). Although it is a relative of the cucumber and the melon, the Kiwano is cross-incompatible with other fruits of the family, as it is the only member of the genus Metuliferus. Because of this, it is difficult to cross cultivars and make the Kiwano sweeter and tastier. Thus, the Kiwano remains bland and evil.
|But of course, the Kiwano is a master of disguise. It wasn't always the stunning Kiwano, you know. Kiwano is simply its business name, due to its similarities in colour to the now infamous Kiwi fruit (another evil member of the fruity family). Which of these is not one of the Kiwano's aliases?|
Kinky Orange. Also known as the English Tomato, the hedged Gourd, and the Melano, this Kiwano is a fruit that can come at you from any number of angles. The French name, Metulon, refers to the species name of the Kiwano, which is Cucumis metuliferus.
|Oh no! It appears you were foolish enough to let the Kiwano go to seed in your back garden! This invasive vine will be hard to kill off - we'll have to bring in the big guns. Say goodbye to your kitchen as the monoecious vine slowly engulfs your blender and starts to take a fancy to your dining suite.
How to stop this cretinous climber? You rustle through your book of garden pests, trying your damnedest to find a suitable disease to inflict on the plant. Which of the following has the dastardly Kiwano no known resistance to? |
Squash Mosaic Virus. The Squash Mosaic Virus is guaranteed to kill off this evil invader, as there are no cultivars immune to this botanical disease. Other members of the Cucumis family also have difficulties coping with the Squash Mosaic Virus - pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons will all be felled and destroyed by the disease.
Although the Kiwano plant can be badly damaged by mildew and fusarium wilt, some varieties of the fruit are unsusceptible to these two diseases. These are the varieties usually grown for commercial uses. As for the root-knot nematodes, all varieties show resistance - making the Kiwano a difficult enemy to fight!
|There goes the Chesterfield. You never really liked it anyway, fortunately. It goes well with the green of the leaves that are slowly destroying your home. Anyway.
Looking at the vines as they engulf the rest of your furniture suite, you remember that you have read about this plant before. The Kiwano, when introduced to an unusual habitat, began to take hold (much like the bullfrogs in that area). On which large, antipodean island is the Kiwano now classed as a weed?
Hint: The key word is antipodean!|
Australia. As the Kiwano originated in desert conditions, Australia was just one giant garden for this dastardly fruit. Although it is grown as a commercial crop in Israel, New Zealand, and part of California, none of these areas have experienced the same kind of full-scale invasion that Australia has to put up with.
|It's starting to fruit. As you cower behind the settee, put your head between your legs, and wish a safe journey to your backside, the heavy fruit begin to fall. Realising that you might starve to death while the police are on their way, you grab a fruit and crack in on the side wall.
You look at it. It looks awful. You smell it. It smells awful. You take a bite and hope for the best, and as you recoil in disgust, you realise that in the wild, the fruit are poisonous. So poisonous, in fact, that... |
Most mammals won't eat it.. Yes, the seeds in the fruit are so toxic that, in the wild, most mammals avoid it like the plague! Due to intelligent crop manipulation, the Kiwanos sold today have had the toxins in the seeds bred out of them - this doesn't improve the taste over much, however.
The toxins contained in some Kiwanos are cucurbitacines, a type of toxin particular to the Cucumis family.
|And here comes your third massive blunder (after of course buying the thing in the first place and then being stupid enough to throw it out when it looked at you funny). You turn the heating up in an attempt to kill the vicious vines. Little do you know that the origin of the fruit means that, at certain temperatures, the vines and yes, the fruits last longer and in fact become more vibrant. Turning the thermostat to 24 degrees Celsius, you realise that you have raised the shelf life of the fruit from a few weeks in a cool environment to over... what?|
Three months! Well, you'll never run out of ammunition for the neighbourhood children.... In lower temperatures, between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius, the fruit of the insidious Kiwano will only remain fresh for a couple of weeks. Sadly, when you turn up the heat, they stay ripe for much longer. In most instances, the pulp of the Kiwano is scraped out and the shell used as an ornament, but beware - the Kiwano has eyes and ears everywhere.
|Quick, flee! For the Kiwano has more chromosomes than you do! It is slightly frightening to believe that this primitive, yet aesthetically impressive fruit has a more bountiful clutch of genetics than you, the poor human that is attempting to battle off the vine invader. Knowing that the Kiwano has one more pair of chromosomes than you do, how many would you suggest the Kiwano has?
Hint: One more pair than humans - if you know how many humans have, you should know this!|
48 chromosomes (24 pairs). The Kiwano has the chromosome arrangement 2n = 24. Humans, of course, have 2n = 23, and so this fruit may have the genetic advantage over you. It's nothing to worry about, however - the organism with the most chromosomes is the field horsetail, a plant that has 216 chromosomes. And that one won't devour your Chesterfield.
|You stand outside your house, watching as the plant finally takes over the chimney. You were lucky - your Kiwano was one of the common cultivars, probably hailing from Israel or New Zealand. You shudder to think at the carnage that could occur if everyone was foolhardy enough to buy this fruit.
But the Kiwano has a trick up its proverbial sleeve. Although the Kiwano is unique and has little variability within the species, certain phenological variability has been discovered and used to make accessions of the fruits. The introduction of a Botswanan species of the fruit has led to a highly successful accession line, which has improved the fruit to the point where people may be tempted to buy the thing. Which of the following attractive characteristics did the accession line from Botswana not exhibit?|
The ability to hold a death ray. The term accession refers to the polymer sequence of the fruit in question. For example, the accession line of Kiwanos from Botswana will have a different polymer sequence to that of the Israeli fruits, and therefore has difference DNA and will exhibit different characteristics.
Now, as you walk away from your house, you don't look back. Your actions have led to the demise of a perfectly good three bedroom semi-detached. Will you ever make that mistake again?
No, didn't think so.
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