How to Grow Shark Fin Melon

I’m always sceptical when any crop or variety is described as either rampant, vigorous or massively productive as these terms are all too often overused in certain seed catalogues. However, Sharks Fin Melon is without a doubt the most rampant, vigorous and productive crop that I have ever grown!

What is it?

Shark Fin Melon (Cucurbita Ficifolia) is known by a variety of different names including Chilacayote, Cabell d’Àngel, Fig Leaf Gourd and Cayote. It has various culinary uses in both Asian and South American cuisines and is widely grown and eaten in these areas. When boiled and added to a soup, the stringy flesh has (apparently) the same texture as Shark’s Fin Soup, hence its commonly used name.

Shark Fin Melons

How to Grow it?

Shark Fin Melons can be treated the same as any other Winter Squash grown in the UK. They are not frost hardy and so the seeds are best started off indoors and then planted out once the last frost has passed. In my experience, once they are established outdoors the plants are fairly tolerance of a broad range of conditions and similarly are relatively untroubled by pests.

Harvest from a single Shark Fin Melon plant!

As a warning, if they are given enough space and nutrients Shark Fin Melons will run rampant and smother any surrounding crops. I was quite late to realise this and my single plant this year took over at half of my Squash patch at the detriment of some of my other Winter Squashes. The fruits are harvested at the same time as Winter Squashes and they will keep for many months as they have a very tough skin. From a single plant, I harvested an incredible twenty Melons each of them weighing up to a few kilograms.

A single Shark Fin Melon plant smothering my Squash patch….

What does it taste like?

To be honest, I’m not that sold on the taste. When cooked, the dense flesh has a somewhat stringy and gelatinous texture with a faint taste with hints of cucumber and marrow. The black seeds inside are also edible and they have a taste and texture very similar to pumpkin seeds when roasted.

What can you do with it?

When it comes to the flesh, my favourite savoury use so far is to halve a melon, scrape out the seeds and then bake it in the oven filled with spices and cheese following this BBC recipe. In Latin America and parts of Southern Europe, the flesh is typically made into a jam (Dulce de Cabello d’Angel) which is then used to flavour sweets and pastries. Having made a couple of jars of Shark Fin Melon jam following this recipe, I can thoroughly recommend it! Since making it I’ve used it as an unusual and very tasty filling for cakes, simple pastries, pies and even homemade doughnuts.

Inside of a Shark Fin Melon and homemade Melon Jam.

Where can you get seeds from?

Seeds are available in the UK from Sea Spring Seeds and Pennard Plants.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you for all of that info.. I had not heard of these type of Melons before.. So found all you said very interesting, including the addition of the recipes.. 🙂


  2. Phuong says:

    That’s amazing they were able to outgrow your winter squashes which are considered rampant as well. And your jam sounds very interesting.


  3. skyeent says:

    Thanks for this. I got seeds from the Heritage seed library this year – I have a friend who’s vegan, so it seemed like a fun thing to try. Do you know whether it will climb at all? I want to try in in my polytunnel, since I don’t think I’m likely to have a long enough growing season here othewise, but I don’t want _only_ sharks fin melon in there!


  4. Liz says:

    Great info.
    BTW, to make the jam (“doce de chila”as well call it here in Portugal) you should not use a knife ir anything metalic to cut it, otherwise it gets a “fishy” taste. You should wrap it in a towel, and smash it against the floor! 🙂 The pieces should be then soaked and “washed” in water (several waters, draining and replacing with fresh water, until it no longer produces foam). Then leave the pieces immersed in water overnight. Then, using your hands remove the “meat” from the rind, and remove the seeds and the darker threads (they get bitter when cooked). ONLY after this should you cook it. This makes a world of difference to the taste of the jam! 😉


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