Gardeners' World Web User
16/11/2007 at 02:06
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.