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Achocha. (N. Vietmeyer)

crunchy, however.) Others are covered in soft green spines and have a curious shaggy appearance. In the immature form (that is, before the seed becomes black and hard), they can be eaten raw or cooked. When mature, they are better cooked, and the hard, black seeds must be removed. Filled with mincemeat or vegetables and baked, mature achochas make a tasty dish, not unlike stuffed peppers, with a flavor that has been likened to artichoke.

Achocha is undoubtedly of South American origin—probably including the Caribbean—but it is found in Mexico as well. In fact, the crop is cultivated from Mexico to Bolivia and grows prolifically in mountainous valleys up to 2,000 m elevation.

Achocha has been tested in cultivation outside the Americas and seems to have widespread promise. It fruits well in subtropical climates, such as northern New Zealand. 10 In South Florida and southern Taiwan, it has grown and set fruit well. In Nepal, it is occasionally cultivated at about 2,000 m elevation and has escaped in places. In England, it has fruited in a greenhouse.

In several parts of the Andes, a wild relative, Cyclanthera explodens, is used.11 The fruits of this species are eaten by peasants, boiled or as a salad. Like achocha, this is a “poor-people's plant.” It seems to

10 Information from D. Endt.
11 Information from H. Cortes B. and J. León. This plant is so named because when the fruit matures, it throws the seeds explosively.

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