Strange Cucumber Fruits

horned melon new zealand

I’ve seen these things in the store recently but with a price tag of $5, I wasn’t about to try it out. However, yesterday my boyfriend wanted to go buy some ‘treats’ and happily threw it in the basket. I had no idea what to expect. I figured with those spines on it, whatever was inside HAD to be delicious. It sort of reminded me of the dragon fruit I had in Oz that I liked a lot. It also reminded me of a microscopic germ on steroids.


This fruit goes by many names. The label said ‘Kiwano’ and claimed it was from here. Seemed to me it was probably not a native and a quick search confirmed it was originally from Africa. Also called a horned melon, jelly melon, African horned cucumber and hedged gourd…native to the Kalahari desert. It apparently contains a lot of water, which comes in handy when you’re in the desert! It grows as a vine and is a member of the cucumber and melon family.

What I saw inside was not what I had expected:

seeds in horn melon

I can see the resemblance to a cucumber as far as the seeds go and it certainly was juicy! I tried to dig a spoon in it to get it out but that wasn’t happening…it was too tough. So I took a knife around the edges and it still didn’t want to release until I cut all the way around it.

inside horned melon

horned cucumber seeds

I scooped around the edges with a spoon so I could get a taste of this and was not pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t sweet at all and as you can see, was very gelatinous. The seeds were tough…more so than a cucumber and the flavour was reminiscent of one. After reading that it was quite nutritious, I felt like I should at least slurp some down. My boyfriend was NOT having anything to do with it. Visually appetizing, it was not. It reminded me of something from a Ridley Scott movie.

jelly melon seeds

So I drank/ate a few spoonfuls because I hate throwing away $5, even if it wasn’t mine. I put the rest in a container and will figure out what to do with it. The guilt is taking over if you couldn’t tell. I would’ve felt better about buying the $8 raspberries…at least I would’ve enjoyed them!

A day or two before, I was in an op shop which often sells local fruit that people bring in as a donation when they have too much of it. As I was paying for my item, I noticed a basket that had some odd looking things I had never seen before so I asked what they were. She said they were apple cucumbers.

apple cucumber new zealand nz

“Do they taste good?” I asked.
“Yes, they’re sweet. I’ve seen people start eating them as they’re walking out of the shop.”
“So you don’t have to peel them or anything?”
“Nope…just eat them as is.”

Well, the skin didn’t look too appealing to me so needless to say, I took it home and let it sit until today. I figured maybe this would make up for the kiwano. So, I cut into it, as my stomach rumbled.

inside apple cucumber nz

The first thing that hit me was the smell of cucumber and look at those seeds! Vaguely familiar, I’d say. Ok, so this should be sweet then. I went ahead and bit some of the skin off along with a chunk of the seeds and jelly inner. Not sweet. After a few chews, I got that drying, bitter banana skin taste and I made a face. I dug into the center and had another go. Bleh. Well, for 50 cents, I suppose it was worth a try.

Now to find something substantial for lunch!



Te Angiangi Marine Reserve Part 2

Seven armed Star Astrostole scabra new zealand hawkes bay

Wanting to take advantage of it still being warm here, we headed out to the Te Angiangi Marine Reserve again (part 1 was last month). It was so much fun, I wanted to write about it once more because we found different stuff and we were almost a witness to a sheep falling off the cliff!

We got there around 10am and walked a bit farther than last time along the track. We could see Blackhead beach ahead of us and 4 wheelers and a few cars were driving toward us. I did notice a sign that said cars were not allowed to do this, but apparently others didn’t. Sometimes there was a rough track but it often dropped down to the shoreline. Something about cars on beaches that annoy me to no end.

We got to a small cliff and decided to walk the beach back which took quite a while since we wanted to explore the tidal pools. The water was nice and warm…all 3 inches of it!

I came across the head of a crayfish (or lobster) which reminded me of the ones in Australia which are called painted crayfish but these weren’t nearly as beautiful. What I hadn’t noticed before is that they have hair on them!

Check out those fine little feathery looking things…I’m not sure if “hair” is the correct term. Although there are a lot of hairy crabs here as well. I found a dead one chilling on a rock and saw a lot in the water blending in really well.

hairy crab te angiangi reserve

I was taking pictures of the cool trees up on the hill and I had noticed a bunch of sheep under that wind swept one. It made me think about the sheep bone I had found near the beach last time. It’s hard to show how steep it really was up there.

I wasn’t fast enough to catch what happened next. One of the sheep made a move and I saw its back end start to slip off of its ledge. She caught herself and watched the big chunks of rock and dirt fall and fall and fall. Lucky girl! That’s her looking down, probably pondering what would’ve happened. And you know me, I would’ve been scurrying over to help…if I could!

sheep almost fell off hill

I kept an eye on her…looks like she’s kind of stuck in that spot!

nz spider with silk

I was inspecting the eroded spots by the beach and saw a small spider. Nothing too exciting there, but when I viewed the photo, I could see the silk coming out of its abdomen which I thought was pretty neat.

The paua shell sticking out of the sand was sure pretty.

abalone shell in the sand

More mudstone surrounded by the neat impressions in the sand which also made me think of Blacks Beach in Mackay.

mudstone new zealand

But the real excitement began when we got back to the beach. For some reason, I never bothered inspecting the rocks that were sticking up here last time. We had been lying on the beach for a while and it got too hot so we headed to the water. I noticed a bunch of small, round jelly looking things with some tiny purple blob inside. At first, I thought they were jellyfish but there were no tentacles coming off of them. That made me think back again to Blacks Beach where I found the snail eggs and thought these were tiny snails in them. There are a lot of snails around, so it made sense.

However, upon further research, I came across that they might be salps and then saw this great blog post that talked about exactly what I had found. You can see from the closeup photo the distinct body in there. I wonder if these are babies because from what I can gather, these are really much larger and stick together. It looks like they’re encased in this jelly. The part you can see are actually the intestines. Now don’t hold me to this, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it is. They’re neat creatures, usually in a chain floating around together and they eat plankton while removing carbon from the water. You can read more about them here.

People have said they tend to show up on beaches when bad weather hits. The cyclone just went through the South Pacific and is headed our way tomorrow, so that might be it.

There were a bunch of crabs and a few weird black sea slugs (maybe sea hares?). It was wild how everything started coming to life once the tide came in.

But the coolest thing of all was watching this seven armed sea star crawl out beneath a rock and start looking for food. It was the largest one I’ve ever seen and it was cold and slimy! It even had spines on its arms. I took (a fairly bad) video of it as well. I believe the scientific name is Astrostole scabra.

Seven armed Star Astrostole scabra new zealand hawkes bay

We watched it as long as possible until the water got too deep. We’ll check for it again next time!

By 3pm, EVERYONE had left the beach…it was weird. We had the entire place to ourselves. We didn’t stay much longer though as we’d been there quite a while already and were getting hungry.

Oh, another thing I found were these:

possibly sheep teeth on a beach

At first I thought they were whale teeth, but found out those would be pointy. Then I thought maybe they were sheep teeth but they seem really large for that. They don’t look like shells or anything like that…they were found on the beach. Maybe they are remnants of  the dead sheep…if anyone can ID them, chime in!

And a little bit of comic relief from the garden…I’ve started picking my carrots and after I tore the leaves off of this one, realized it looked like a half person! Although it also had a tail.

These are about the only two Cherokee Purple tomatoes that didn’t get completely messed up. Too bad…they’re really meaty and huge but I’ve had to throw away most of them so far because of sunburn/bugs/cracking.

We’re still being graced with great sunsets, too! No Photoshop needed.

We got a cold front in and I was worried summer was over. Thankfully, I was wrong! It’s been fairly unbearable in the house between 2:30-5:30 but I’m not complaining.

Until next time…


Te Angiangi Marine Reserve

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve

From our humble little town of Waipukurau, we are about a 30 minute drive to the coastline. There are quite a few beaches, all very different from each other which makes choosing our favourite a bit difficult. We decided yesterday that this one in particular, would be our go-to beach. It was a bit off the beaten track, having to travel about 6km along a dirt road to get there.

I only just read about this Te Angiangi Marine Reserve in our local paper last week. The story behind it was that there was a massive landslide in 2011 which was caused by 25 inches of rain over a 4 day period. It was then triggered by a 4.5 earthquake nearby. The result: most of that hill in the above picture slid into the ocean, disturbing sea and bird life. However, it has now started to recover and we went to check it out.

With the prospect of seeing octopi searching for food in the shallows, I got pretty excited. There are even sightings of dolphin, seals and orca in this bay in the summer. They call this Stingray Bay, although I didn’t see any or read any reference to them being there. Sometimes bays are named for their shape, so that could be the case here. Although stingrays do inhabit these waters.

As usual, I took quite a few photos so I’ll just talk about them below.

This was the first view of the huge hill from the parking lot. You can see where the part of the slide happened on this side.

The reserve starts about where I was standing to take this photo of the beach in the distance. We got there as the tide was going out, luckily. It was quite shallow but became even more so about 30 minutes later.

We walked the track for a while which led to the reserve and saw a bunch of sheep headed toward us. I couldn’t help but wonder if any had been caught in the slide. It seemed like a pretty scary place to be walking, considering. Then I noticed this bone down near the water, which I assume was from a sheep and wondered if it had been a victim.

Orange signs showing the reserve boundary

I love wind swept trees and I don’t see nearly as many here as I did on the South Island.

Getting down to the beach put me into shiny object syndrome mode. I move pretty slowly once I get immersed in things that have been washed up.

Some of the first things I saw were urchin shells (or Kina in the Maori language). I’m pretty sure I ended up with a spine in my foot, which is still bothering me.

Also washed up were these Neptune’s necklace (sea grapes or bubbleweed), which were in abundance in the shallows as well. They are a type of seaweed. Once the tide went out, they were exposed, creating a field of yellow.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve neptune's neclace

Washed up on shore were a few of these hairy crabs and even some Portuguese man-o-war jellies. Yikes. I read that immersing the wound, should you get stung, in as hot of water as you can stand for 20 minutes is what you should do. Heated sea water works and even urine, if nothing else is available. But to definitely NOT use fresh water on it and to try and remove the stingers with a dry towel.

Cormorants (or Shags) are common everywhere.

I was able to spot some cute starfish, mostly hidden under rocks. I bet this place is crawling at night with all sorts of neat stuff! For the first time ever, I even saw small shrimp! I wasn’t able to get a good photo, though.

Cuddling starfish, how cute is THAT?

Then we spotted this creepy worm-like thing. I saw one later, much smaller, writhing like it was having a fit while floating in the water. Once it touched bottom, it straightened out and crawled along.

Also under the rocks were these dark, what I dubbed ‘Tarantula Crabs,’ which freaked out looking for cover.

I had been too busy looking down to take notice of these cool rocks that were everywhere. I read that they are called mudstone. Their appearance is due to the expansion and contraction of the material, which causes these geometric shapes and also makes them very fragile. It reminded me of dinosaurs with those hard armour shells.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Those are limpets stuck in there. They talk about the golden limpet in this area, which I saw a few of in the water. I’m not sure exactly what they do, but they appear to make some deep marks in the rock and you could see evidence of where some had been before by their oval shapes.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve golden limpet

It had gotten pretty hot yesterday and at the time of this photo, this was as deep in the ocean as I had ever gotten in New Zealand for the past 4 years I’ve lived here! I’m proud to say I made it up to right below my knees for a few minutes later on in the day.

Andy spotted these tiny snail shells on a rock, but you couldn’t tell just how small they were so I added my finger to the next one to show you.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve snails

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve snails

The views toward the beach were great as the clouds made a nice reflection on the top of the water. There were patches of eel grass as well. The photo of it looks surreal with the cloud reflection

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve eel grass

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve

We finally hit the sandy beach but after 4 hours of being out there, got to be a bit much with no shade. Dehydration crept up and we came back to town for some cold drinks.

We were then graced with an amazing sunset that night. No Photoshop needed, folks. Summer is FINALLY here. Although with no a/c in the house, I’m feeling almost like I’m back in Central America (minus the monkeys and birds and sloths).

Waipukurau sunset Hawke's Bay

Waipukurau sunset Hawke's Bay

Another post soon once my Cherokee purple tomatoes start to change colour and an update on the garden!




A Wild Turkey Thanksgiving

Wild turkey roadside new zealand
Run away! Run away! You’re not safe in late November!

If you know me, you know my plight every year when Thanksgiving rolls around. Scrounging up money to buy a turkey that’s about the size of a large chicken at 4 or 5 times the cost. To a turkey lover, such as myself, it’s a necessary evil. All year round, I think about Thanksgiving…waiting for it to arrive. THAT’S how much I love turkey and the great memories it brings of being with family and friends. I stock up on the jellied cranberry sauce from the American store in Auckland and look forward to turkey sandwiches for a couple of days after the shindig.

We drove to the beach one day, which is a good 35 minute trek through gorgeous rolling hillsides with happy, grass munching sheep and I spotted a flock (or rafter) of turkeys in a field! Our mouths started to water and I kidded how I was going to make a mental note of where they were when November rolled around. As we drove a bit further and rounded a bend, a huge black turkey was perched on a fence post. I’d never wanted to have an animal jump in front of the car as badly as I did right then. I would have gladly taken that piece of roadkill home and saved us $65.

A few days later, I was with a couple of friends and asked if they knew of any turkey farmers in the area so I could get a cheap one for Thanksgiving. Liz said there were wild ones all over the place and to just go out and kill one. HAH! I didn’t actually realize they were wild…I had heard of farmers who had them so it never occurred to me that these were free roamers. I blew off the idea because I couldn’t actually kill an animal and clean it. I recall getting ill in biology class when we had to dissect a worm. I was promptly dismissed from my duties when the teacher saw how white my face had turned.

No more than two days later, there was a knock at my door and Liz stood there, looking quite sporty in her hat and gumboots. She proudly proclaimed that she had a turkey for me! I was like, “Huh?” Her son and husband had shot four of them and asked if I wanted one. I went to the truck and they opened the back of it…lying dead as door nails were four big, black turkeys.

Now I felt guilty. There was no way I could bring myself to plucking and gutting the thing and so I offered to pay them if they did it for me. They were kind enough to oblige and once the shock wore off an hour or two later, I asked her to get pictures for me so I could blog about it.

wild turkey new zealand

plucked wild turkey new zealand

Not for the squeamish, right? Liz’s husband works for the meat packing plant so this is just another day at the office for him. I’m still feeling slightly bad about it, though.

Liz cooked up her turkey soon thereafter and gave me some white and dark meat to try. As an interesting aside, she said that you shouldn’t hunt turkeys in the late spring or summer. Apparently, they eat crickets and that changes the taste of their meat. She let me know that there were no crickets in the gizzards so that was good to hear. I will say that the dark meat was not like the turkey I was used to tasting. It was very ‘gamey,’ as they say (even though I don’t eat wild game, I can see what they mean now). I wouldn’t have thought there to be a difference, but I was wrong! As one local told me, “Keep the breast, toss the rest!”

I took the turkey from them after a week or so…they had kept it in their large freezer for me. It now fits snugly in the bottom section of our freezer and takes up the entire space, unlike any turkey I’ve ever had in New Zealand (and I struggle to remember the last time I cooked one this large in the States). I’ll defrost it a few days in advance and hope it fits ok in the oven. Yes, everything is smaller here…refrigerators AND ovens, alike.

wild turkey new zealand
Wild turkey hiding in the grass.

We’re now spotting turkeys everywhere we go, it seems. The other weekend we took a drive to see a small man-made lake just 10 minutes away. On the way out, there was a turkey on the side of the road looking like he wanted to get on the other side of the fence. We slowed down and stopped…waiting for him to run out in front of us! Hah…ok, not really. He stayed in the grass, possibly noting my American accent and tried to blend in. We laughed it off and kept driving…still feeling badly having one of his relatives in our freezer. This one was safe…from US, at least.

So the day has finally arrived and even after 4 days in the fridge, the turkey was still frozen the night before Thanksgiving. I woke up early today and took it out to unwrap and thaw some more and to test the size in the oven. Uh oh…

turkey doesn't fit in the oven

I tried to bend the legs back, to no avail. The neck was pretty much still on there (covered by foil). I stood there at 6:30 a.m. wondering if I should try to hack it off and said, “Nahhhh.” I couldn’t stomach it, regardless of the time. I’m not entirely sure how to shove the butter under the skin but I’ll tackle that later.

wild turkey thanksgiving
Looking mighty uncomfortable in its own skin

Heck, I even made a butter pie crust for the first time in ages last night!

butter pie crust

chocolate pudding pie

As the time grew closer to stuffing this bird in the oven, I figured I’d better hack off the neck. Two knives later (and fingers still intact), it was off! I moved it to a sturdier roasting pan and then tried to put it in the oven. Didn’t work. I tried tying the legs together and pushing them in but this was the best I could do. Tin foil will be my friend today.

wild turkey in the oven
I hate small ovens.

Thanks to the small oven, it cooked in about half the time it should have and the legs were a bit, shall we say, overdone. However, the breast was still semi-juicy and only slightly tougher than the plastic wrapped counterpart I’m used to. It wasn’t the most attractive turkey I’ve come across, but hey…whatever works, right?

Didn’t like the dark meat, anyway!

The turkey was too big to fit on the table, plus I had nothing to even put it on. The breast was smaller than I would have expected for such a large turkey, but there was still plenty leftover. Liz brought over a pumpkin cake and a bottle of bubbles and she cleaned her plate on her very first Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for the turkey, Liz and hope to do it next year too!