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Caigua

Written by Carolyn on April 12th, 2011.      12 comments

Today we are giving you another sneak peek into our secret file of new varieties.   This week it is the Caigua (pronounced Kai-wa).


caigua hollow showing seed small.jpg
When our new catalogue comes out in Spring, Caigua seed will be one of our new offerings.  These seeds are rarely available, but Gerard has been growing these himself and last week he brought a length of vine from home to show staff members, and for us to sample.  When he offered us a taste, we all approached with caution.  
 
Unfortunately, Gerard has been known to taste-test new varieties on staff and we haven't quite forgotten the cannibal tomato he offered around last year....it turned out to be so unpopular that it didn't make it into the catalogue at all!  Hence our caution/hesitation!
 
 caigua plant.jpg
 
The caigua is an annual vine grown for its small fruit, which are used as a vegetable. It is also known as  achocha, slipper gourd, stuffing cucumber, or "Lady's Slipper".  It is also known as the pepino in Colombia and as the korila in the Philippines.  When we were finally persuaded to taste the caigua, we had a very pleasant surprise....the little immature ones we tried (they were approximately 2 cm long) were crunchy and delicious (reminiscent of cucumbers) and it was agreed that you could pop them whole into salads and they would be lovely.   
 
achocha_2.jpg

The Caigua (Cyclanthera pedata) grows as a vigorous, lightweight climbing vine.  It can be trained up fences or framing, although Gerard grew his out across the ground quite happily.  The vine bears small fruit that are vaguely cucumber/asparagus-flavoured. 
 
caigua on leaf small.jpg

The immature fruits may be eaten raw or pickled.  As the fruit mature, they become hollow, and the mature fruit is often eaten stuffed. Apparently the taste when cooked is remarkably similar to green capsicum.  The young shoots and leaves may also be eaten as greens.
 
Cyclanthera_pedata_ill1.jpg

Historically, the caigua originates from the South American Andes.   The caigua is now grown in many parts of Central America and South America and other tropical regions.  Caigua is traditionally taken to reduce blood cholesterol levels and is also used to reduce obesity and control high blood pressure.
 
small caigua composite.jpg

You may have some comments about the leaf shape from your neighbours if they are peering over your fence, but you can assure them that the caigua is totally above board and hopefully you will be able to share with them some of your caigua fruit to completely win them over!
Topics: new varieties
 

12 Comments

lyndsay richards says ...
have grown caigua for 2 seasons now here in ch/ch with good results
J Davidson says ...
I've grown caigua now for 6 years in Northland. It begins to fruit in January and carries on till after the first frosts - if any. This last winter was gentle - we kept picking fruit until July. Very good to have it at a time you can't grow beans. We use it as small & raw - the kids love them - or larger cooked. If the seeds are still white, I cut the pod away from them. If the seeds are black(ripe) they lift out easily. Cooked caigua tastes very like asparagus. It fruits so generously I freeze quite a lot to use in nutritious soups through winter.
Heidi O'Callahan says ...
Greg, to reply about what size to pick them. I have found the best way to eat caigua is pickled - and I prefer caigue pickle to gherkins. For these, pick them very small. My next favourite way to eat caigua is when mature, hollowed out, and roasted with rosemary, or filled and roasted. I don't personally like to eat them at the intermediate stage because the seeds are already big enough to be unpleasant, yet don't come out as easily as when the fruit is more mature. In Auckland this year, I was eating caigua well into winter, without a greenhouse. But it did take ages to get going in the summer. I hope that's useful.
k.scherrer says ...
does caigua grow in north otago
Dianne says ...
Could someone tell me how many Caiua per day one can eat? I have been told too many are not good for you. Is this correct I love them and have two plants growing at mo and producing well. Are they ok to freeze.

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78 yrs, old,need to find caigua gigante for my blood pressur eothanjs a lot sylvia lavrinoffnly thing that works- frogart@msn,com
claudia says ...
I am currently looking for this plant seeds any help please
Kathy Elizabeth Ponton says ...
Hi, I would like to buy the seeds of the caigua, I can not faind it, please if you habe it. Let me know whay to do
Thank you

Kathy
Greg Cave says ...
The plant is growing madly over a trellis. Wondering how big I should let the fruit grow before I pick them.
Lyn Freeman says ...
I am growing caigua this season....so far it is doing lots of climbing & creeping...covered in flowers, and fruit just starting...very exciting...can't wait to try them...I love growing unusual vegie plants
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Tim Martin says ...
Great! I used to grow this crop many years ago, but then lost the seed one year. Its a wonderful vegetable and easy to grow. It does well as a winter crop inside a glasshouse too if you're lucky enough to have one.