Six months ago I popped by An Urban Veg Patch, and was fascinated to find out about a South-American vegetable I’d never heard of before, the Achocha. With fruit known as ‘Fat Babies’, this prolific plant grows in a cucumber-like vine and produces soft-spiked pods that taste like green peppers. However unlike peppers, the Achocha can be easily grown outdoors in the UK and you can rely on it to continuously produce pods well into Autumn. In fact Caro from an Urban Veg Patch told me that she was harvesting Achochas into December of last year.
Achocha pod with a close-up of its soft spikes – photo courtesy of An Urban Veg Patch
I’m all about sharing seeds so after reading her post I thought to ask Caro if she wouldn’t mind swapping with me for some Acocha. A bit cheeky I know but you never know if you don’t ask 🙂 Fortunately she is a very generous lady and sent me a sizable bag of seeds which arrived in the post this week. Because the Achochas that Caro grows are from the Real Seed Company it means that any seed she collects from her own plants will be true and grow into the same type of plant as its parents – you can’t say the same about seed from hybridised veggies. The Real Seed Company only sells heritage variety seeds so growing from their stock makes it easier to save your own seeds for the next year and to also share among friends.
Large Achocha pods – photo courtesy of An Urban Veg Patch
Achocha pods and seeds – photo courtesy of An Urban Veg Patch
Kindly sent along with the seeds were directions on sowing, growing and cooking Achocha which will come in handy for a beginner like me. And in re-reading through this information today I found that May is the month in which they need to be sown. There are quite a few seeds in the packet that Caro sent me but I settled on starting six seeds in three small pots and going from there. I’m not sure how long the seeds are viable but I hope to save some of these for next year (in case of an Achocha-growing disaster) as well as to hand out to some friends.
The directions sent with the seeds are as follows:
Start seeds in small pots under cover in April/May as you would courgettes. Harden off in a frost free place and plant out in a sunny spot when seedlings have 4-5 true leaves and once all danger of frost has passed. Space 18″ apart in good rich soil.
Grow up a tall wigwam, 5′ fence or hedge. Vines will grow 6-10 feet and produce many single fruits. Pick for salads when small (2cm) or grow up to 6cm and stir-fry after removing the large seeds. Can be eaten raw but nicest cooked. Can also be stuffed.
Hoverflies are attracted to the flowers; excellent natural protection against aphids.
So the sown seeds are now in the conservatory and I’m just trying to think of where I’m going to squeeze them in now. Since they seem to enjoy growing on wigwams I’m considering planting them up with some sweet peas in a sunny part of my back garden. Though the sweet peas may eventually become overwhelmed by the Achocha I’d still like to give it a go – experimentation can be one of the most fun parts of gardening. It’s almost as fun as harvesting and cooking new and unusual vegetables.
Thanks so much for these fantastic seeds Caro and I encourage the rest of you interested in gardening to have a look at her blog and post on Achocha which includes far more information than I’ve given here.