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The Ethnobotany of Foraged Food & Peculiar Produce

Archive of strange and unusual food plants

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Achocha: An Exploding Gourd for Your Exploding Garden

Cyclanthera pedata

 [10]

[10]

When you think of a kitchen garden— and I mean a DREAM kitchen garden—show me what comes to mind. Ahhh I see it...

We are standing beneath an arbor festooned with clusters of plump grapes. A basket is slung on your shoulder as you scan the vines, carefully plucking each grape and dropping them into your basket individually. You gain silent satisfaction from the gorgeously thick plunking sound each grape makes as they tumble to the bottom of your basket one-by-one. "They sound purple," you imagine, "I wonder why nobody makes grape pies." Then you remember I'm writing this article and therefore am able to hear your thoughts. You blush as I begin to address you...

"This is a fine garden, traveller; what wonderful purple grapes! And those tomatoes are chunky. Very beautiful; very peaceful. Hey, those people doing yoga in your herb garden, do you know them? Do you want me to tell them to leave? No? Oh, okay; that's not too weird I guess. It is your dream garden after all. So! Let's take a quick jaunt to my garden around the way."

We walk through a dark tunnel in the brambles surrounding your garden and come out on the other side.

The thick fog multiplies the glow around a neon sign leaning against an gnarled oak tree; a decrepit skeleton is seated in it's glow with its jaw agape. It is clear that reckless authors have been dumping their foreshadowing devices on the periphery of the garden. "Disgusting," I exclaim, "you might want to put these goggles on." 

We walk through a rickety gate and I spot something exciting. I say: 

"LOOK, look! Over there! You see that vine climbing up that huge marble statue of Marcus Aurelius? Yes, the vine with those puffy-green pepper-looking things hanging off of it. THAT, my dearest traveller, is Cyclanthera pedata. The hollow fruit is called Achocha and can be stuffed and baked as a pepper. The sprouts, called quelites, can also be eaten. Since we are talking about strange facts...," I continue,"...the tendrils can twine around a support in under four minutes and—allow me to put on my goggles—this is one of the MANY edible vegetables that explode.

YES, welcome to my EXPLODING VEGETABLE GARDEN....

KABOOM

Kenny Loggin's song "Highway to the Danger Zone" inexplicably begins playing as we are sprayed with stinging sand. We are sent hurtling through the atmosphere amongst the seeds, dirt, marble rocks, and writhing gnomes. Yes, the gnomes of this garden are real

You are screaming and clutching on to my turkey-sized bicep with both arms. Terrified gnomes are flipping about; with outstretched arms, they grasp on to any available piece of our shredded clothing. We exit Earth's atmosphere a spinning constellation of hands. You are still screaming. "Don't worry, friends," I say, "this tale has gone far enough."

We come to rest on Jupiter's moon, Europa, and await the U.S.S. Digression to pick us up and shuttle us back to Earth. It is palpably uncomfortable on Europa as we search for things to say to each other. 

...cough...

Welcome, traveler! Welcome to the weird world of Cyclanthera pedata: an exploding vegetable for your exploding-vegetable garden that very few people, ever, seem to talk about. 

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When To Plant (The Plan)

We will sprout seedlings in sandwich bags in mid-March. We will then plant sprouted C. pedata in small pots with potting soil and replant outside on May 25th in a trellised plot in our box garden.

Culinary Uses

This plant is grown for its edible fruits, young leaves [9], and shoots. [4] The hollow and deseeded fruits are generally stuffed. It is used much in the way that a green pepper might be used. 

Folk Remedies

The fruit of this plant is said to have cholesterol-lowering, weight loss, and blood pressure lowering properties.

Freaky Factoids

This tendrils of this plant will wrap around a support within four minutes [7]. The mature seed pods of this plant will explode with a loud popping sound, sending the seeds hurtling in all directions [8].

Recipes 

References

[1] Elpel, T. J. (2004). Botany in a day: Thomas J. Elpels herbal field guide to plant families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press.

[2] Borror, D. J. (1971). Dictionary of word roots and combining forms. Houston, TX: Mayfield Publishing Co.

[3] Lost crops of the Incas: little-known plants of the Andes with promise for worldwide cultivation. (1980). New York.: Books for Business.

[4] Pittier, H. (1910). New or noteworthy plants from Colombia and Central America, 2. Washington: G.P.O..

[5] Pittier, H. (1910). New or noteworthy plants from Colombia and Central America, 2. Washington: G.P.O..

[6] Bailey, L. H. 1858–1954. (19581956). The garden of gourds, with decorations. [Boston]: Gourd Society of America.

[7] Kerner von Marilaun, A. (1898). The natural history of plants, their forms, growth, reproduction, and distribution: From the German of Anton Kerner von Marilaun. [Subscription ed.] London: Blackie.

[8] Washburn and Company, B. (1869). Amateur cultivator’s guide to the flower and kitchen gardens: containing a descriptive list of two thousand varieties of flower and vegetable seeds; also a list of French hybrid gladiolus raised and imported by. Boston: Washburn.

[9]McBryde, F. Webster 1908–1995. (1971). Cultural and historical geography of Southwest Guatemala. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

[10] Image Attribution: This image was used under a Creative Commons licensure from here.