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Anchocha: A New Crop for
One of the things that we enjoy at Flanders Bay Farm is
growing plants that aren't familiar to farmers here on the East End of
Long Island or plants that are not usually grown here. It is important to keep your eyes open to the potential of a new crop. So, we do a fair amount of evaluation of material looking for that special unknown.
Anchocha, also known as Caygua (Cyclanther pedata) is a native of the
Peru uplands. It is not frost hardy but is tolerant of cool fall weather
when it poduces the greatest quantities of edible fruit. The seeds can be
started indoors like tomatoes or peppers to get a head start on the
growing season. Even then, Anchocha takes a long time to produce;
probably 120 days or so. Zone 7 might be the northern limit for
this interesting vining member of the squash family. We have
worked for the last two years with Anchocha and here in Flanders it
will begin to bear fruit in late August and continue until the vines
are cut down by frost. Each vine can bear dozens of fruit.
Anchocha is a cucurbit. The vines have highly cut leaves and
clusters of tiny flowers that don't look much like squash nor even
cucumbers which the anchocha are sometimes compared to.
When the fruits are 2-3" they are tender and tasty and besides
cucumbers, have been compared to green beans, green peppers and even
artichokes. The vines use their tendrils to climb netting,
fences, trees but seem to produce best where they ramble
horizontally. The greatest obstacle to their acceptance is not
knowing what to do with the bizaar green fruits with soft spines.
In extensive testing at FBF, the young fruits are fine raw chopped up
into salads like green peppers or used with a dip as may raw veggies
are. They are outstanding dipped in a tempura batter and deep
fried. When the fruit grows large (4 - 7 inches) and chewy,
remove the few black seeds (dry them for next seasons seed crop) and
stuff the hollow fruit with ground meat and rice or with a cornmeal
mesa, cheese and hotpeppers; perhaps chunks of cooked chicken or pork
and steam like tamales or simmer in a tomato sauce like stuffed peppers
or even bake in a wood fired oven. Think of the Anchocha as an
edible bowl that will become soft like a cooked pepper. You may
want to use the vines to tie the fruit closed after stuffing it.
My favorite preparation is to steam the large fruits after removing the
seed and then dip it into egg and breadcrumbs to panfry the fruit like
breaded eggplant. One can take this a step further and make a
parmesian. They are probably
most like artichoke in flavor prepared like this. Some people
also enjoy the tender shoots lightly stemed as greens.
Anchoca has caused some interest in medical research for phytochemicals
that are produced nowhere else. Investgations on it's healthful
properties such as in lowering triglycerides are ongoing. The
ancient Mocha culture of Peru held the anchocha in high regard.
Pottery is often found decorated with large stylised ceramic anchocha
Last Modified: Nov., 2009