Caigua, (Cyclanthera pedata (L.) Schrad) is a vegetable that grows on a climbing annual. It is highly regarded as a delicacy that has survived for centuries being linked back well over 500 years to the Inca Empire.
This little pod is pointed on one end and even before being stuffed with meat and cooked it resembles a pregnant Okra pod.
Today I had this strange little Peruvian vegetable called Caigua for dinner. It was stuffed with mildly spiced ground beef. It was sautéed and stuffed with finely chopped tomatoes, purple onions, garlic, black pepper, salt, and cumin until fully cooked. Caigua can be boiled, fried, put in stews, chopped raw for tossed salads … Let you imagination go wild. The Caigua looks like a pregnant Okra pod before being cooked. I was expecting that slimy Okra taste to my pallet. However even though the Caigua’s resemblance to boiled Okra when cooked the fact that it was soft and could be cut with a fork. The pod is however slightly firmer to the palate.
It has a very different taste. I can not ever remember a taste like that of the Caigua. I have never eaten it raw but I am told it has a slight cucumber taste or a sweet green pepper. When cooked the flavor of the little pod still leaves a lingering after-taste. Every part of this plant is edible not just the pod or fruit but also the seeds, and leaves.
Honestly, I can not remember ever eating anything that tasted like this vegetable. The closest I can point to its taste would something between the smell of a green tomato vine and a raw green sweet pepper.
The plant is almost a wonder drug in itself. The Inca used it for Caigua is an excellent source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that can help boost the immune system and is a good source of fiber, which can help regulate the digestive tract. The fruit also contains some potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, and iron. The Incas made a tea out of seeds and leaves as a remedy against diabetes, high cholesterol and stomach and gut problems. Other usages were as a anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and analgesic.
Would I eat it again? Sure, it actually had an acquired taste that one could get used to. Plus anything that different has to be good for you. ~Newt Livesay