"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Leaf of the Day: Horned Melon and Hats

The last day of April already. This means I have now reached the end of section two of the course and the fourth month of this blog. May's posting will be erratic as I am in the UK for 3 weeks...it seems a long time stretching ahead away from my base and with no regular Internet access, but I will be making some interesting visits. Kew Gardens for one, to see the Gardens in May and particularly the new Shirley Sherwood collection of Botanical Art which, I feel, will inspire, awe and dismay in equal amounts. These artists are the "creme de la creme" of botanical art.
Shirley Sherwood's book, Contemporary Botanical Artists" and meeting with a couple of the artists in my past life were contributing factors to me finding myself embarking on this course of study. See a good review here at Katherine Tyrrell's excellent artblog "Making a Mark"
Another visit will be to the Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace to see "The Amazing Things" exhibition which I briefly touched on here in "Upside Down Sloth " post.

However now, the fridge needs clearing out of plants and other inedible bits of botanical stuff. It is just possible that Chris, undergoing a severe personality change in my absence, may reach for some healthy greens and find himself with an unusual and potentially lethal salad. He does need to be wary of my cooking these days.

I had nearly forgotten this almost inedible "fruit" languishing in the bottom salad tray. How could I forget it! I had fondly thought of making a coloured pencil study of it for the course but it would have taken far too long and after my experiences with coloured pencils I would not have been calm enough to do it justice. "Inedible" because, when I started researching this melon, the consensus of opinion seems to be that it is quite awful from a culinary point of view.
It is true it doesn't taste of much and is more like a cucumber than an melon, however to an artist it is a joy ... its colours, patterns and shapes are wonderful, inside and out. When cut in sections the translucency of the big seeds encased in the pale green jelly is beautiful. I could spend a week just exploring this. However for now this little watercolour sketch and pencil study will have to do for now.
So the Horned Melon cucumis metulifer from the order "curcubitales" is an native African fruit which has since been developed in New Zealand and marketed as Kiwano. An enterprising New Zealand couple had spotted this rather obscure but brilliantly coloured melon and seeing its novelty and decorative value learnt how to cultivate it. It was very successful in America but somewhat like pumpkins I would imagine more people buy it for decoration than to eat.
A Kiwano fruit "how to eat it" here from Wiki how

Coincidentally, the day I bought this little fruit was the day I went to the Orlando Art Museum (and was first introduced to the very edible Surinam Cherry). Amongst other things, I made some sketches of these very interesting Royal Bamileke Hats from the Cameroon..similar in many ways to the African Horned Melon.


They are very beautiful, in colour and design. I have not yet discovered the significance of the bumps but another visit next month will be to the British Museum so I may be able to find out some more information there.

Here is a photo from the Africa Direct website that has more hats, and beautiful beaded items too, another passion of mine.


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Half a Horned Melon





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