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Talkback: Lost crop of the Incas

I have just joined the Heritage Seed Library and have received some Achocha seeds. Too late for sowing this year so I'm intrigued to read about what I can expect next year. My Lancashre Lad peas and Brighstone beans from HDRA are doing well :-)


  • Beware - my mother gave me just 6 seeds. I started them off in coir pots, then planted them out with a wire fence to climb, they grew quickly, and have now spread, climbing over the beans, peas, melons, fennel and tomatos! They are trying to bridge the gap to my sweetcorn!
    The melons seem to like it, but it was too much for the tomatoes which got totally swamped whilst I was away for a couple of weeks. I hope they are yummy, or I will be very sorry I planted them among other veg! Next year I may let them battle it out with the brambles, or iscolate them on the other side of the garden!
  • Great to hear your plants are flourishing, Bernadette, but just two plants produce more than enough achocha for my family. With six plants you'll be feeding the neighbourhood! Do let us know what you think of them. Remember, small 'fruits' that have not yet formed seeds can be cooked whole. Once they reach their full size (about 7.5cm/3in long) you'll find hard flat black seeds developing inside. I split fruits in half, removing the seeds which grow on a white stem. Towards the end of summer I'll leave a few fruits to fully mature on the plants, and collect these seeds to sow next year or give to friends.
  • I am starting a garden where I now have lawn. What is the best way to do it?
    kill the lawn then till it in. Cover lawn with black plastic to rot grass, then till it in. scrape the grass off then till it.
  • Being originally from Peru, I can assure you, this wonderful vegetable from the cucurbitae family, is not the "lost crop of the Incas", but a very popular meal in Peru. It is commonly known as CAIGUAS or CAIHUAS, and also named "lady slippers".

    It is true that just 2 plants will produce--if properly nurtured and given the right support and sunlight--over 200 units! I planted this year such amount, and it climbed from a supporting wall, to my arborvitae trees, hanging gracefully, spreading at least 20'.
    It takes a very long growing season (started inside in March, planted in late April, developed until August, and started producing fruit up to late October) when I cut all of them, as a frost was coming.

    The plant likes warm sunny days(24-28C), LOTS of water, compost and mulch; and can stand cool nights(down to 8C, but below 5C it collapses.
    This schedule is for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    The fruits grow up to 6" long and 3" wide, when they are best to eat and cook. Smaller units, may taste bitter. Generally, they are prepared as stuffed peppers, cut and cleaned as explained by Adam, and placed in a large pot, with little water (or better yet, tomato juice form the filling)and simmered slowly for 20 minutes until soft. Another way, is to place them similarly on a flat Pyrex casserole container, and add some mozarella cheese on top and baked them open for 25 minutes at 325F.
    I have used onion, ground meat, herbs, raisins and lots of chopped fresh tomatoes to cook the stuffing on a pan. Then I place it on each raw caigua half until I stuff them all. They are delicious, as the skin is less dense than a pepper and have a special taste.

    Caiguas are good to lower cholesterol among other benefits.

  • I am fascinated by this plant and would like to grow some this summer. I live in the United States. Any idea as to who might sell the seeds around here?
  • Hi Manuela
    I got some seeds from Carrie Thomas at Touchwoodseeds email: [email protected]
  • hi, im ben im 13 and love to grow,
    i grown veg last year, i grown beans carrots and peas.i hope to grow lots more this year. do you have any advice for me on growing plants.
  • Yes Ben. Firstly, make a list of al the veg you like best, then take a look at some seed catalogues on the internet to choose varieties. Alternatively, have a trip with your parents to a local garden centre, as they'll have displays of vegetable seed packets to inspire you.

    Your beans, carrots and peas were probably sown directly into the soil, but some crops are better started earlier indoors by sowing into small pots on a windowsill. Do you like tomatoes, sweetcorn, or marrows and courgettes? All of these can be raised indoors to plant out later in spring when the weather is warmer (usually towards the end of May).

    Also Ben, do have a go growing potatoes in pots. You'll find lots of advice on how to do this on web sites.

    Enjoy yourself, and have a productive year.
  • Why do my tomatoes skins split
  • I planted a few too many achocha this year at the end of my pea & bean section. They grew all through the peas, tried to bridge the gap to my sweetcorn in the next bed and the weight of them has collapsed the canes they were growing up!

    Haven't eaten any yet - here's hoping they are delish!
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