Growing Fat Babies
(cyclanthera brachyastacha) A South American crop, they are small, oval and covered in soft edible spines. Bar slugs when the plants are small, they are free from pests. Hoverflies love the flowers – and their larvae eat pests in your garden so they’re worth encouraging. Achocha grows happily (and fast!) outside here in South London, smothering the trellis on my shed wall and will fruit until frost kills them. As an indication of yield, four plants gave me over 4kg between early August and the end of November.
Sow seeds in moist compost in mid-late April. Pot on and keep under cover till all threats of frost are gone. Then set them out 45cm apart at the base of something they can climb and leave them to it.
If picked when they are between the size of a 5p and 10p piece you can eat achocha whole. At that point they taste cucumbery and are a crunchy, juicy plot snack. Let them get to about 5-6cm long and they make a perfect substitute for green peppers. At that point the seeds are hard and sharp, and you wouldn’t want to eat them. But by then the fruit will also have developed a cavity as well as a stalk from which the seeds dangle so they are easy to de-seed.
If you like achocha, let a few mature till pale yellow and flick out the seeds to dry. They don’t cross. Given the fruits’ tendency to hide amongst the leaves, you’ll probably have enough to provide seeds for your family, friends, their family and friends…Seeds are available to buy from Real Seeds.
Read more from Beryl at www.mudandgluts.com.
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