Achocha

An ancient Peruvian crop.

Achocha (Cyclanthera pedata), also known as “kaywa” or “stuffing cucumber” has been cultivated in mountainous areas of South and Central America since ancient times. In 2014 I found a large-fruited variety called Bolivian Giant for sale at The Real Seed Catalogue . It is quite easy to grow – very vigorous once it gets going and the seeds are easy to save. I’m still just discovering the possibilities for eating it.

The fruits start to ripen in August/September, when the soft “prickles” form and they feel hollow when you squeeze them. Harvest them before the frost kills them off.

The simplest way to use them is to pick the young fruits before the seeds start to develop and eat them raw as a snack or in a salad. The most popular way of preparing them seems to be to stuff them, like sweet pepper. A visitor from Columbia gave me the trick: take the seeds out and blanch flesh for a couple of minutes in boiling water so it relaxes and is easy to stuff. Once they are blanched the fruits can be frozen for later use.

Any stuffing used for chille rellenos would work. So would one for Greek stuffed peppers.

Joe Foster