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Caigua are small, spiky green fruits that grow along climbing vines. Immature fruits are 2 to 3 inches long, a darker green with fewer spikes and are very solid. Immature Caigua have edible seeds with a taste and texture very similar to cucumbers. When the small cucurbit matures, the black seeds harden and have a somewhat arrowhead-like shape. The mature Caigua is light green, roughly 4 to 6 inches long and around 2 to 3 inches wide. Known as the “stuffing cucumber,” the fruit becomes hollow, with the seeds forming around a central placenta much like bell peppers. The taste of a mature Caigua or Achocha is very similar to a bell pepper.
Caigua or Achocha is available throughout the fall months.
Cyclanthera pedata is the botanical name for Caigua, or Achocha, the cucumber relative and fellow member of the cucurbit family. This heavy producing fruit grows in the wilds of the tropics and is cultivated in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Caigua is eaten both in its immature state as well as when it is mature. Young fruit is eaten fresh, out-of-hand much like a cucumber. It can be sliced and added to salads or sautéed and served alongside a main dish. Mature Achocha is typically stuffed like a pepper with meats, fish or cheeses and herbs; it can be sliced, fried, breaded and baked. It is juiced in Peru and added to high-nutrient juice mixes. The ancient cucurbit can be substituted for cooked green peppers and is a milder substitute for jalapenos in Jalapeno poppers. Caigua can be frozen, canned or dehydrated.
In Peru, a tea is made of the fruit and given as a medicinal remedy to those ailing from high cholesterol, diabetes, or gastrointestinal problems. Caigua is used as an anti-inflammatory, a diuretic, and analgesic, among others. The small fruits are boiled in milk and gargled for tonsillitis.
Caigua is said to be one of the last crops of the Incas. It is native to Peru and Bolivia and the fruit appears in many traditional dishes from the area. Cyclanthera pedata is known in Spanish as Caigua or Caihua and Achocha in the indigenous Quechua language. The plant has a natural resistance to both disease and pests and is a heavy producer. Caigua is also more cold resistant than common cucumbers and grows in both the UK as well as the Northeastern US.
Recipes that include Caigua (Achocha). One is easiest, three is harder.
|Chef Jacques Gautier of Palo Santo||Stuffed Cucumber aka Caigua or “Pepino Para Rellenar"|
|The Global Gourmet||Fish-Stuffed Caigua|
|Bolivia Bella||Achojcha Rellena - Bolivian Stuffed Caigua|
|The Kitchen at the Top of the World||Tex-Mex Stuffed Caigua|