Health benefits of Caigua

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Caigua Quick Facts
Name: Caigua
Scientific Name: Cyclanthera pedata
Origin Central America, South America and the Andes
Colors Dark green when young, ripening to a light yellow-green hue as they mature
Shapes Tear shaped fruit that is 10-20 cm long and 3–8 cm wide, irregularly ovoid, curved and pointed at the ends
Flesh colors Pale green to white
Taste Delicate taste of cucumber mixed with green bean
Health benefits Support for gastrointestinal problems, hypertension, tonsillitis, circulatory problems, arteriosclerosis, diabetes and intestinal parasites
Caigua pronounced kai-wa, is an herbaceous plant belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family of plants, the same family of plants as pumpkin, cucumber, watermelon and gourds, among others. Its scientific name is cyclanthera pedata and it is also known by the common name of Achocha, Slipper goard and Stuffing gourd. It is a plant with medicinal uses and endless characteristics worth knowing. The plant is not known in the wild, but presumably native to many parts of Central America, South America and the Andes. It is found in the Caribbean Islands, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico. These plants are also quite popular in eastern countries such as North-Eastern India, Bhutan and Nepal. In Africa cultivation is restricted to highlands of East Africa. Some of the popular common names of the plants are Cyclanthera, Accocha, Achocha, slipper gourd, sparrow gourd, stuffing cucumber, Caribbean pygmymelon, Stuffing gourd, Wild cucumber, Lady’s-slipper, Threelobe pygmymelon, Caihua, Caygua, Cayua, Korila, achojcha, achokcha, Achoqcha, archucha Barela, Bottle gourd, Korila, Lamthabi, Meetha karela, Patal, Prickle cyclanthera and Calabash gourd.

The fruit is often eaten in the tropics and the plant has a good reputation in the treatment of several disorders. Today some people promote it as one of the lost crops of the Incas. The Incas used Caigua as a medicinal ingredient, mostly made into a tea as a remedy for high cholesterol, diabetes, or gastrointestinal problems. It was also used as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and analgesic and the fruits were boiled in milk and gargled to remove inflammation associated with tonsillitis. It is the small fruit which are generally harvested and eaten although the plant extracts are well recognized as having many medicinal type uses, especially in the control of obesity or high blood pressure. Fruit is comparatively hollow and is most often stuffed (after seed is taken out) before cooking, similar to cooking aubergines or peppers. Young shoots and leaves are also edible as greens. Raw fruit are also edible. Green fruit is suitable for use in the preparation of pickles or with salads.

Caigua Facts

Name Caigua (Slipper gourd)
Scientific Name Cyclanthera pedata
Native Not known in the wild, but presumably native to many parts of Central America, South America and the Andes. It is found in the Caribbean Islands, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico. These plants are also quite popular in eastern countries such as North-Eastern India, Bhutan and Nepal. In Africa cultivation is restricted to highlands of East Africa
Common Names Cyclanthera, Accocha, Achocha, slipper gourd, sparrow gourd, stuffing cucumber, Caribbean pygmymelon, Stuffing gourd, Wild cucumber, Lady’s-slipper, Threelobe pygmymelon, Caihua, Caygua, Cayua, Korila, achojcha, achokcha, Achoqcha, archucha Barela, Bottle gourd, Korila, Lamthabi, Meetha karela, Patal, Prickle cyclanthera, Calabash gourd
Name in Other Languages Bhutan: Olochoto, kichipoktho
Chinese: Xiao que gua (小雀瓜)
Czech: Ačokča
English: Korila, Korilla, Slipper gourd, Wild cucumber, Caigua, Achocha, Lady’s-slipper, Stuffing gourd, Stuffing-cucumber, cyclanthera
French: Concombre grimpant, Concombre des Andes, Achocha
Finnish: Herkkuhyppykurkku
German: Korila, Ringscheibenspritzgurke
Hindi: Meetha karela (मीठा करेला), Musmusa Lam
Italian: Ciclantera
Japanese:  Achocha
Nepali: Barela (बरेला), chuche karela
Philippines: Korila
Portuguese: Taimiá de comer, Taimiá de cipó, Maxixe-do-nordeste, Maxixão, pepineiro-de-comer
Quechuan: Achocha, Achuqcha
Russian: Tsiklantera s”yedobnaya (Циклантера съедобная)
Serbian: Divlji krastavac (Дивљи краставац)
Spanish: Pepino de comer, Achoncha, Pepino de Rellenar, Pepino de Relleno, Pepino andino, Caygua, Achocha, Achoca, Caihua, Maxixi peruano, Achoscha, Caiba, Caigua, Caygua, Pepino hueco, caifa, jaiba, caigua chica
Swedish: Korila
Plant Growth Habit Vigorous climbing, herbaceous, monoecious, annual vine
Soil Performs best on rich, well-manured, free-draining loam and sand soils of a moderately acid to neutral nature, generally with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0, and on sites with full to partial sun exposure
Plant Size About 4.5 meters or more long, perhaps up to 12 meters
Leaf Leaves are composed of three to five, toothed, light green, lance-shaped leaflets fused at the base, in a cart-wheel shape up to 20 cm (8 in) in diameter. They are attached to the vine on 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in) long leaf stalks
Flowering season August to September
Flower Monoecious, but the staminate flowers are borne in racemes, whilst the pistillate flowers are solitary. As compared with other cucurbits, Caigua flowers are relatively inconspicuous; they are light green or white and small, only several millimeters in diameter. The male flowers occur in small clusters and the female flowers are solitary.
Fruit Shape & Size Tear shaped fruit that is 10-20 cm long and 3–8 cm wide, irregularly ovoid, curved and pointed at the ends
Fruit Color Dark green when young, ripening to a light yellow-green hue as they mature
Fruit Skin Surface is irregular, with longitudinal striations and soft spines
Flesh Pale green to white with a spongy and crisp consistency
Seed Edible and soft when young, transforming into hard, black, and inedible, arrow-shaped kernels as they mature. Seeds are 12 mm long, 7 mm wide and 3 mm thick and are flat and matt black
Taste Delicate taste of cucumber mixed with green bean
Plant Parts Used Whole Plant mostly fruit, seeds and leaves
Propagation By seed
Health Benefits
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Lowers Cholesterol
  • Weight Loss
  • Manage Cholesterol
  • Menopause Imbalances
Companion Plants
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Onions
  • Nasturtiums
  • Dill
  • Oregano
  • Tomatoes

Plant Description

Caigua (Slipper gourd) is a vigorous climbing, herbaceous, monoecious, annual vine that normally grows about 4.5 meters or more long, perhaps up to 12 meters, much-branched and with twining tendrils that enable it to climb up, on and over structures. The stems scramble over the ground, clambering into surrounding vegetation and supporting themselves by means of long tendrils. The plant grows well in any type of soil. However, for the best crop and to avoid growing problems such as root rot, you should adjust the soil to make it as close to loamy or sandy as possible. As for the soil pH, it should be slightly acidic or as close to neutral. Alkaline soil can have a damaging effect on the roots and the vine. Adding organic compost and aged manure will raise the acidity levels of the soil to the desired mark.

Watering

Caigua prefers the soil to be constantly moist. This can be tricky as the temperature rises in the summer, and the sun bears down on the plants. On average, you’d need to provide one inch of water per week. As the vine grows and expands, its roots dig deeper into the soil. So you need to water the vine deeply to reach the roots faster. The best time to water the caigua is in the early morning. The late spring and summer are the times when the vine needs the most water. Keep the plant hydrated to avoid problems with flowering and fruiting.

Fertilizer

More nutrients in the soil, the better crop you’ll get from each vine. Before you plant the seeds, mix in a good amount of aged manure and organic materials. This has the dual benefit of enriching the soil with a slow-release fertilizer that doesn’t burn the roots nor trigger a fast growth spurt. It also improves the aeration and drainage of the soil. Once the vines start climbing the trellis or support system, apply a balanced fertilizer once every 2 weeks. When you see the flower buds emerging, switch to a phosphorus-high fertilizer to encourage more blooms. After the flowers get pollinated, go back to a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. Side dress with organic compost until the fruits is ripe.

Leaves

The foliage is glabrous and is said to emit a cucumber-like odor if injured. The stems of C. pedata are thin and bear palmate leaf laminae that are deeply 5- to 10-lobed and lanceolate with serrated edges. The leaves are composed of three to five, toothed, light green, lance-shaped leaflets fused at the base, in a cart-wheel shape up to 20 cm (8 in) in diameter. They are attached to the vine on 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in) long leaf stalks. From the axils of the leaves arise the trifid tendrils that the plant uses to climb.

Flowers

Caigua (Slipper gourd) is monoecious, but the staminate flowers are borne in racemes, whilst the pistillate flowers are solitary. As compared with other cucurbits, Caigua flowers are relatively inconspicuous; they are light green or white and small, only several millimeters in diameter. The male flowers occur in small clusters and the female flowers are solitary. Flowering occurs from autumn to early winter, in response to shortening day lengths

Fruits

Female flowers that are fertilized develop into tear shaped fruit that is 10-20 cm long and 3–8 cm wide, irregularly ovoid, curved and pointed at the ends. Fruits are dark green with smooth, ridged skin when young, ripening to a light yellow-green hue with smooth or spiked skin, depending on the variety. The fruit surface can be smooth or softly spiny with a shaggy appearance. Underneath the surface, the flesh is pale green to white with a spongy and crisp consistency, only 0.5 cm thick, and is said to have a flavor resembling that of cucumbers. Over time, the flesh will begin to hollow, developing a cotton-like texture, encasing several black seeds in the center of the pod. It was observed that fruits growing on a plant sprawling on the ground were more irregularly shaped than usual: the stylar end of the fruit, normally pointed and black, was curved so as to occur on the upper side of the fruit, attributable to greater growth of the lower side of the fruit.

Seed

The seeds are edible and soft when young, transforming into hard, black, and inedible, arrow-shaped kernels as they mature. Seeds are 12 mm long, 7 mm wide and 3 mm thick and are flat and matt black. In shape, they are said to resemble diminutive mud turtles, having head and neck outstretched and four projections at angles where the feet would be. The surface is not smooth, instead described as pimply, with ridges and depressions. They are distributed in two rows in number of 12 normally attached to a placenta.

In South America the fruits are eaten much like bell peppers – either raw or cooked (after the seeds are removed). They are also prepared as stuffed peppers; stuffed with meat, fish or cheese and then baked – earning its name “stuffing cucumber.” Caigua is currently cultivated as a food in the Caribbean, Central and South America. It has been introduced into Florida where it is called “wild cucumber” and is considered a weed pest in lawns and gardens.

Companion Plants

As with other plants you grow in your garden, not all plants play nice together. Some get along fine and even develop symbiotic relationships, while others start competing for resources from day one. In the case of caigua, you can plant the vine along with tomatoes, oregano, onions, dill, peas, beans, and radish. The legumes fix nitrogen in the soil, which makes fertilizing the soil redundant. Oregano and onions are natural pest repellents and protect neighboring plants from wildlife and bugs.

Health benefits of Caigua

Listed below are some of the common health benefits of using caigua in your daily routine

1. Lowers Blood Pressure

Caigua helps to lower blood pressure and at the same time help to lower blood sugar levels too. And the leaves of the plant lower blood sugar too… and are usually added to the diet for that purpose.

2. Lowers Cholesterol

Researches show that this cucumber/pepper looking fruit helps to lower LDL or bad cholesterol by up to 75%, and increase HDL or good cholesterol by over 20%. In Peru Caigua has a reputation of being one of the most powerful fat absorbing veggies around, and a good detoxing agent.

3. Weight Loss

Caigua Fruit is very low in calories and consists of mucilaginous agents that help with obesity and sooth the GI. People dieting can use Caigua as a good way to lose weight fast and at the same time lower cholesterol.

4. Managing Cholesterol

Caigua has the ability to reduce the cholesterol absorbed by the body. Thanks to high concentrations of sitosterol-3-beta-D-glucoside, which the body mistakes for cholesterol, the levels of cholesterol in the blood reduce the more you eat caigua. This benefits the cardiovascular system and reduces heart diseases.

5. Menopause Imbalances

Besides reducing cholesterol levels, caigua has the benefit of balancing triglycerides and lipids among women going through menopause.

Traditional uses and benefits of Caigua

  • Tea from seeds of Caigua can be used as remedy for high blood pressure.
  • Other plant parts can be used to treat gastrointestinal problems, hypertension, tonsillitis, circulatory problems, arteriosclerosis, and diabetes.
  • Seeds and/or the fruits are recommended for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.
  • The fruits are diuretic.
  • They are boiled in milk and gargled as a treatment for tonsillitis.
  • Fruit juice is recommended as a treatment for high blood-cholesterol levels.
  • Fruits and/or the leaves are boiled in olive oil and used externally as a topical anti-inflammatory and analgesic.
  • Leaves are considered to be hypo-glycemic and are prepared in a decoction for treating diabetes.
  • Roots are used to clean the teeth.
  • It increases good cholesterol (HDL) while reducing bad LDL cholesterol, with an overall positive effect on heart health.
  • Herbal tea made from the vine’s seeds is known to decrease blood pressure and prevent it from reaching dangerous levels.
  • It can be used in the treatment of various infections, from otitis (ear infection) to malaria fevers and various types of kidney and stomach pain.
  • By crushing the dried seeds, a powerful powder can be prepared and used in doses of about one gram to get rid of intestinal parasites.
  • It relieves pain of the internal organs (with both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties), can help against varicose veins and control the level of sugar and lipids in the blood.
  • The plant is known to rid the blood of impurities and ward off ear infections, malaria, and fever and kidney disease.
  • The raw juice is used for ear inflammation as the outer compress.

Culinary Uses

  • Young fruits are eaten raw while older fruits are cooked.
  • Young, immature fruits are eaten raw or cooked and have a similar taste to cucumbers though they are not crisp.
  • Older fruits are cooked; they can be stuffed in much the same way as marrows.
  • Fruits are hollow and often they are prepared for cooking by removing the seeds and then stuffing them with rice and meat and/or cheese.
  • Leaves and tender young shoots are cooked and used as greens.
  • Mature fruits are consumed in soups and stews after removal of the seeds.

Stuffed Caigua with Osso Bucco, Rocoto Aioli and Pan Grattato

Ingredients

  • 10 small caiguas
  • 500g osso bucco – 2 pieces
  • 2 white potatoes
  • 500 ml black beer
  • 25 leaves of huacatay (peruvian black mint)
  • 1 red onion
  • Salty pepper

Directions

  1. Marinate the osso bucco in beer with onions in large dice and huacatay. Leave overnight.
  2. Remove the osso bucco and pat them dry.
  3. Seal the osso bucco, caramelizing nicely on both sides.
  4. Braise slowly in the marinate with onions and huacatay until tender.
  5. Remove the osso bucco and allow it to cool enough to chop into rough dice
  6. Cook diced potato in the braising liquid
  7. Reduce liquid to a just and mix combine with potato and meat.
  8. Remove the ends of the caiguas and take out the vein and seeds.
  9. Blanch them in salted water for a couple of minutes.
  10. Stuff them with the mixture and pass through an oven when ready to serve.
  11. Serve on top of an ‘aioli de rocoto’ and top with ‘pangrattato de huacatay’.

Mix veg stir fry

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Cut the veggies as desire, I prefer them length wise.
  2. Heat two tbsp. oil in a pan add garlic and sliced onion with few sliced of green chili.
  3. When onion become soft adds turmeric powder, coriander powder, cook for a minute, then add tomatoes.
  4. When tomatoes become a bit mashies add the veggies.
  5. And salt cook for 5 min without lid on.
  6. At end put chopped coriander and mix.

Other Facts

  • Roots are used to clean the teeth.
  • The plant is considered to be a weed pest in Florida.
  • The Moche culture often depicted this species in their ceramics.
  • Remains of this species have also been found buried in archaeological sites on the Peruvian coast.

Precautions

  • Avoid use during diabetes.
  • Eating Caigua in large quantities can damage eyesight.
  • Patient undergoing treatment for symptoms of hypotension and hypoglycemia should avoid consuming these plants as they can cause certain side effects such as nausea, headache and blurred vision.
  • Also the patients of elevated serum transaminases or active liver problems should not eat Caigua.
  • It is advisable for pregnant women and nursing mothers to avoid Caigua since not much information is available in this area.
  • Patients with signs of hypotension and hypoglycemia should be particularly careful, since significant quantities of caigua can lead to several neurological issues, including strong headaches, dizziness and unclear eyesight.
  • Caigua should be avoided by people with high serum transaminases or active liver problems.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=506800#null

http://www.hear.org/pier/species/cyclanthera_pedata.htm

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomydetail?id=12773

https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Cyclanthera+pedata

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/113710

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/CCEPE

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2749967

http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Cyclanthera+pedata

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclanthera_pedata

https://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Cyclanthera_pedata_(PROTA)#Other_botanical_information

https://nordic-baltic-genebanks.org/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=12773

https://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Stuffing%20Cucumber.html

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclanthera_pedata

https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=CYPE11

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