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