|The Caigua plants growing in the hotel vegetable garden|
Although we give preference to growing local varieties and local crops we also like to try new varieties and new crops to help increase the range of home grown fruit and vegetables that we provide for our guests. Any new crop or variety we plant has to be evauated to see how it grows under our specific conditions and to see if the fruit or vegetable has good eating qualities.
|Fruits ready for picking|
With this in mind we tried growing caiguas this year, from some seed which I brought back from Nepal where it is grown and greatly appreciated. This vegetable has many different names including achojcha, slipper gourd, stuffing cucumber, korilla, olochoto and kichipoktho but the most common name is caigua which comes from South America where it is grown the most.
|Fruits ready for eating raw, juicing or cooking.|
From the information I could find I knew it was a vigorous creeping vine which likes a lot of warmth and water and needs between 90 and 100 days before it starts fruiting.
|The young growth full of tendrils|
The plant is certainly very vigorous but this last week, two months after we planted it in our vegetable patch, it is starting to produce an abundance of fruit. The fruit are lovely to eat raw but also absolutely delicious sautéed tasting something like a cross between a pepper and a cucumber. There are also many recipes from South America for stuffed caiguas which we have yet to try. And apart from tasting good according to all the literature caiguas are a miracle health food helping to regulate cholesterol levels and they even have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
|The plant has both male and female flowers these are the clusters of male flowers|
|The female flowers are born singularly or in pairs in the leaf axle|
The plant is hardy and disease free and unlike other cucurbits we grow such as cucumbers or courgettes the caigua doesn’t suffer from mildews. This is where I see the interest in this crop for our vegetable plot; to start producing lots of fruit in late summer when our courgettes are starting to suffer and produce less.
It’s the first year we try the caiguas but we will definitely try them again next year and what is sure caiguas grow in Asturias and the guests love them.