Earlier this year I received 8 Achocha seeds from the Heritage Seed Library. The packet was marked simply ‘Achocha Achocha’, so the exact variety is unknown but likely to be either ‘Fat Baby’ (Cyclanthera brachystachya) or Ladies Slippers (Cyclanthera pedata). Based on the shape of the leaf (and with my still limited plant identification skills in mind!), I’ve taken the assumption the seeds are Ladies Slippers (Cyclanthera pedata).
Of the 8 seeds I received, only 2 germinated. However, if you recall, earlier this year the weather wasn’t great. We had a very late winter with heavy snow well into April, followed almost immediately by an unusually warm period. Germination and growth was erratic for most of us, so I’m cautious of using my ‘25% germination rate’ as a general guide.
Those that did germinate however did grow strongly, and pretty quickly. It wasn’t long before I had to add some stakes to the pot to keep them upright before I could start hardening them off. Around this time, moving to a new plot which meant a backlog of plants being kept at home while busily searching for somewhere for everything to go on the new plot.
In the end, I planted them at the base of a support frame (originally intended for peas or beans) – one at each leg. I was aware they could grow to 3 or 4m tall, but intended (nee hoped!) that they would grow horizontally across the frame when they reached the top – which they did. However, the plant was much heavier than I expected. As I’d placed them both at one end, in the last 6 weeks or so – despite the horizontal growth helping slightly – the frame was being pulled out of the ground at the ‘open’ end.
The wind earlier in the week was the final straw – the whole lot collapsed to the ground!
As luck would have it, they were pretty much ready anyway. Working through the plant picking off the fruits uncovered a much greater harvest than was first apparent. To the casual eye, it appeared I had maybe a dozen or two fruits growing. It turned out there were easily two hundred in there, from just 2 plants! That’s based on me ignoring any fruits less than an inch long, of which there were many more.
In all honesty, I was grossly unprepared this year – my ‘support’ (term used loosely!) was totally inadequate.
Saving Achocha Seeds
However, such a harvest does mean plenty of seeds to be saved for another more valiant attempt next year. Just one fruit can provide as many seeds as I started with this year;
In terms of taste, some describe them as a mix of cucumber and sweet pepper. Others suggest a mix of cucumber and pea pod – which I think is probably fairly accurate. If I’m honest, my initial impression is that on their own, there isn’t a great deal of taste to them. However, I’ve been adding them (chopped) to salads in the last 2 days, and they definitely come into their own there. The added ‘crunch’ and subtle taste does make a difference to a salad. For that reason, I’ll definitely grow them again next year.
Despite my rather poor effort this year, the yield has been impressive. Beyond watering during the hot summer, I did nothing more than plant them in the ground. As an ‘unusual’ crop, they provided a good talking point on the site and helped me get to know other plot holders – many of whom have asked for some seeds to grow it themselves next year.