Derived from the South American pepino dulce fruit, the pepo has an extremely low sugar content, and according to its developer Dr. David Levy, it is tastier than any of its predecessors.Diabetics must give up a variety of tasty foods due to their high sugar content, including most varieties of fresh fruit.

Now, thanks to Israeli scientists at the Volcani Institute of the Agricultural Research Organization, diabetics can enjoy the exotic taste of a new fruit called the pepo, without worrying about ingesting too much sugar.

Derived from the South American pepino dulce fruit, the pepo has an extremely low sugar content, and according to its developer Dr. David Levy, it is tastier than any of its predecessors.

“The pepino comes in different varieties. I first ate the pepino dulce for breakfast while in Peru. One of the main problems was that it did not taste very good, and that it has a strong aftertaste,” Levy told ISRAEL21c. “That’s what we worked to correct. The fruit we developed looks and tastes different, and in tests conducted in Europe by a major supermarket chain, our variety of Pepo got the best marks for taste and appearance.”

Levy sent baskets of the fruit to the The Israel Diabetic Association which tested the pepo and found that thanks to its low sugar content, it could be eaten by diabetics

“We did research on the pepo and found that there was very little sugar in them, making them suitable for people with diabetes,” said Elisheva Rifkin, the spokesperson for the Israel Diabetic Association. “They have a very exotic, tropical taste. I think they would be a big hit in the United States,” she added.

Approximately 17 million people in the United States, or 6.2% of the population, have diabetes. While an estimated 11.1 million have been diagnosed, unfortunately, 5.9 million people (or one-third) are unaware that they have the disease.

According to Levy, the pepo’s low sugar content is not its only attractive attribute.

“We are always looking for new crops, and this has been one our pet projects. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve developed a variety which tastes good, has a long storage life and is a good yielder. The Pepo can be marketed up to 3 weeks after harvesting if it is kept in low temperatures around 12 degrees centigrade,” Levy said.

The pepino (Solanum muricatum) is an exotic fruit originated in South America
and promoted in recent years as a specialty fruit. This fragrant fruit has its origins in Peru, though it’s now grown, besides in Israel, in New Zealand, California and other subtropical and temperate climates. The exotic-looking pepino has a smooth, glossy, golden skin streaked with violet. It can range in size anywhere from that of a plum to that of a large papaya. The skin, seeds and flesh are all edible.The perfumy yellow-gold flesh is juicy and lightly sweet, with a mild cantaloupe flavor.

According to Levy, the pepo is grown by a process called vegetative propagation – the term given to any asexual means of starting new plants. He explained that his researchers took cuttings from the fruit and replanted them in greenhouses in Arava valley.

So far, the pepo has been exported to Europe and Australia, as well as appearing on Israeli greengrocers’ shelves. But according to Levy, it’s only a matter of time – and finding the right distributor – before Americans can enjoy the tropical taste of the fruit.

Scientists at the Volcani Institute are responsible for three-quarters of agricultural research in Israel, and the sprawling center has a reputation for excellent basic and applied research.