Small white flowers with green center

File:Caihua.jpgI grew achocha (Cyclanthera pedata, also commonly known as caigua) last year for the first time. I'll grow it again this year, but probably won't start it until April.

Achocha, also commonly known as caigua or less commonly by the English name "lady's slipper, " is a cucumber relative from South America. It grows as a large vine and produces fruits a couple inches long with what seed catalogs usually describe as a "mild" flavor. Of course, when seed catalogs report a "mild" flavor, that means that you can expect very little flavor in my experience.

Achocha (Wikimedia Commons)

Most people in my life agree that I don't exactly have a refined sense of taste or smell. It's true - subtle flavors are usually lost on me. Everyone else who tried the achocha claimed that they have a mild cucumber flavor. The thing is, mild cucumbers don't taste like much of anything to me, so I can't confirm or deny this claim. To me, achocha tastes like any "mild" green - like lettuce or cabbage or spinach. I distinguish these crops based on their texture more than their flavor.

Anyway, enough about my senses and their limitations. I do pay a lot of attention to texture and achocha is interesting in that department. The skin of the achocha is thick, crisp, and just a bit fibrous. Ours had small, soft spines. The interior was juicy but spongy, with a texture a bit like open cell foam (not that I go around eating open cell foam). Picked small, they were a nice addition to salads. They were also tasty cut in half lengthwise and scrambled with eggs. As they get bigger, the pithy core starts to dominate and the developing seeds become an impediment. At that point, it is better to cut them open, remove the insides, and use them for stuffing.

Growing achocha is easy. Finding seed may be a bit of a challenge, but Google will usually turn something up. I got my seeds from The Real Seed Catalogue, since I was working in the UK at the time and took the opportunity to get some varieties that aren't easy to come by in the US. Sadly, Real Seeds doesn't ship to this side of the Atlantic. I did notice that Peace Seedlings offers achocha seeds though.

I started my achocha in the greenhouse in March in cups with plain garden soil on a heat mat at 70 degrees. The variety is "Fat Baby." They sprouted in a little more than a day and were unfurled by day three.

Achocha seedling at 3 days from sowing.

At almost two weeks, they were growing rapidly and pushing up their first true leaves.

Achocha at 12 days.

At a bit more than three weeks, the vine was growing almost fast enough to watch and much too big for its cup.

Achocha at 24 days.
I transfered it to a tub on day 25 and a week later, it was sprawling over the edge of the tub.

Acocha at 33 days.

Eventually, I built a small PVC trellis for it. Sadly, I seem to have misplaced the rest of the achocha photos. Below, you can see some of the first fruits forming and masses of the little white flowers.

Flowers and fruits.

By the time it was two months old, we were harvesting the young green fruits by the fistful.

Start with Home Depot or Sloat Garden Center

2005-02-08 23:10:34 by welcom2SFCA

Welcome to San Francisco
Stock is scented and comes in white, cream, yellow, pink, lavender, purple in tall or small straight spikes with fluffy flowers
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Miniature roses are perrenials but will grow nicely in a window box
Peppermint, sage, thyme, parsley, rosemary, lavendar, raddish, green onions, alspine strawberries will all grow in a window box for a couple of years befroe they need transplanting
there are lots of other garden centers to explore in the bay area and you can grow things pretty much all year long
you can probably grow your favorite hydrangia indoors in a big well...

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