Achocha - The Unknown Cucumber Relative
Hugely prolific in fruit and leafy shade growth, they are a dual purpose plant for gardeners looking for a green shade or windbreak which gives a good supply of tasty food.
Achocha/Caihua (pronounced kai-wa) is a slender tropical vine with long tendrils for climbing originally from South America. Domesticated in the Andes, it spread throughout Colombia and Bolivia in ancient times. It is now grown all across Central and South America, as well as India and Nepal.
The mature fruit is pale green, semi-flattened like a cucumber 3-5" long and 1-2" wide, hollow with several black seeds resembling tree bark. The leaves are 4-5" wide and divided into several lobes. Vines climb well and regularly top 10 feet, easily trained on a trellis for a shade structure.
Heat tolerant and productive if they have consistent soil moisture. They will stop producing and go dormant if the soil becomes too dry, resuming flowering and fruiting when moisture returns. They will tolerate some cold, but no frost.
Can be started inside along with tomatoes and transplanted out in shorter season or cool spring areas.
In Central and South America the fruits are eaten either raw or cooked after removal of the seeds. They are also prepared as stuffed peppers; stuffed with meat, fish or cheese and then baked or fresh.
Medical studies in Peru have shown that achocha can lower cholesterol levels. In herbal medicine a tea from the seeds is used for controlling high blood pressure. The seeds and/or the fruits are also recommended for gastrointestinal disorders. The leaves are considered hypoglycemic and prepared in a decoction for diabetes. The fruits are boiled in milk and gargled for tonsillitis. The fruit juice is also recommended for high cholesterol, hypertension, tonsillitis, arteriosclerosis, circulatory problems, diabetes and as a diuretic. The fruit and/or the leaves are boiled in olive oil and used externally as a topical anti-inflammatory and analgesic. The roots are used to clean the teeth.
I just ate my first one. Craving more, about to go out to the garden to check for more. Flavor is very light but vaguely cucumber, maybe. Need to eat more to see. Very crisp and fresh. The texture is more pepper than anything, like Bell but not as rigid. I could see these becoming very popular. Really looking forward to starting to cook with them, can see many dishes in my head that might be made. Can they bake? Be fried? Maybe not good cooked at all. Wonderful fresh. Buy these seeds and grow them.