Saturday, 19 June 2010

Discover Caigua

  • Caigua (Cyclanthera pedata (L.) Schrad) is an amazing and rare edible climbing annual, and is regarded as one of the lost crops of the Inca peoples.
  • Its other names are achocha, achoccha, achojcha, caiba, caihua, caygua, concombre grimpant, korila, kaikua, lady's slipper, pepino de comer, pepino de rellenar, pepino andino, slipper gourd, stuffing cucumber, taimia de comer, taimia de cipo, wild cucumber (USA).
  • Native to Peru and the high Andes.
  • This beautiful climbing vine has bright green toothed, palmate leaves and long twining tendrils.
  • This plant is very easy from seed and will suit a position in sun or shade.
  • It will cover fences, sheds and allotment eyesores with ease.
  • Its growth rate is astounding in a tropical climate where it is capable of growing 40 feet in a season, but is obviously less vigorous in our northern temperate climate.
  • From late July through to September it produces tiny cream coloured flowers followed by curious edible, smooth gherkin like fruit with a hooked end.
  • Available in England as seed is Caigua 'Zapatilla Gorda', the only smooth skinned variety of this species, and who's name in Spanish means "the fat slipper".
Culinary uses

  • Edible are the fruit, seeds, and leaves.
  • The flavour is similar to sweet peppers.
  • Unlike a cucumber, the inside of the ripe fruit is hollow (much like a bell-pepper), with several black seeds attached. 
  • In Peru, the fresh fruits are typically put into a blender and juiced. The juice is taken in 1/4 to 1/2 cup amounts twice daily. The fruits are also simply eaten as a vegetable, either fresh or cooked.
  • The fruit can be eaten raw (after the seeds have been removed) in salads, stir fried, or stuffed with meat, fish or cheese and rice mixtures and baked in the oven.
  • They are also prepared as stuffed peppers; stuffed with meat, fish or cheese and then baked - earning it's name "stuffing cucumber." 
  • The leaves and shoots are also edible raw or lightly cooked.
  • Caigua is currently cultivated as a food in the Carribean, Central and South America. 
  • It has been introduced into Florida where it is called "wild cucumber" and is considered a weed pest in lawns and gardens.
  • There is a great buzz in medical circles at present concerning the medicinal properties of this plant. 
  • New research has just shown that the fruits contain substances that dramatically reduce cholesterol and promote weight loss. The plant also contains potent anti-oxidants.
  • The Peruvian Wild Cucumber, as it is known in the south of the USA, has long been utilised for weight loss and problems associated with arteriosclerosis. 
  • It is thought to be one of the most potent natural fat absorbers and is traditionally taken to rejuvenate and reduce cellulite. 
  • Clinical studies have demonstrated regular consumption of Caigua regulates the metabolism of lipids and sugar in the blood stream, controlling cholesterol levels by reducing ldl cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) while increasing hdl cholesterol (the "good" type). 
  • Flavonoids and triterpenoid saponins have been isolated from the caigua fruit. 
  • A preclinical study has also shown Caigua to be a more potent anti-inflammatory than Ibuprofin. 
  • Ciagua’s weight reducing and cholesterol-balancing effects are most noted when consumed daily for several weeks or months

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