21 Nov 2015

How to preserve an abundance of Achocha



So what do you do when nature has decided to dump your entire achocha harvest in your lap (metaphorically speaking) all at once?  You can either eat small green porcupine peppers for the next two weeks at every meal - a task fit to stretch anyone's culinary creativity - or you can turn to the preserving books on your (or the local library's) shelves.  I opted to preserve most and cook a few.

As a keen forager (when I have time) and grower, I have several excellent preserving books.  Although there's a wealth of advice on the internet, I prefer the tried and tested methods that have made it into print. This time I looked through Piers Warren's How to Store your Garden Produce (reviewed here)  and, newly gifted to my collection, The National Trust book of Jams and Preserves.  This is an extremely handsome book that has inspired a wealth of ideas for next year's garden produce.

I had to really think about which recipes I could use; after all, achocha is not your usual allotment fare. Botanically speaking, achocha (Cyclanthera) are classified as a subtribe of curcubits, the same family as pumpkins, squash, courgettes, gourds, melons, cucumbers and, yes, even loofahs. Having said that, they're not fleshy like pumpkins and the mature fruits don't have the watery flesh of melons and cucumbers. For cooking purposes, achocha can be used like a diminutive cousin of the sweet green pepper. However, the pepper preserving recipes I found seemed to be aimed at chilli peppers so in the end I decided I'd be safe treating the fruits as cucumbers.  Whew, decision reached.

You might at this stage wonder why I didn't consider freezing them. Well, apparently extreme cold breaks down the cell membranes so they turn to unpleasant mush on defrosting.  My chosen recipes of cucumber achocha jam and sweet cucumber achocha pickle sounded much nicer. I don't usually eat pickle but I dislike wasting food and had the pickle ingredients in the cupboard; also I was intrigued by the thought of cucumber jam. Hmm, savoury jam? A bit odd but I thought I'd give it a go and it turned out to be surprisingly delicious. The author, Piers Warren, suggests the option of adding a good pinch of ground ginger to the jam at simmering stage which I did - along with a pinch of cinnamon for good measure and the finely grated zest as well as the required juice of a lemon.



I've yet to try the pickle.  Apparently the original recipe will go nicely with fish and chips. Again, I got creative with the recipe by adding in yellow peppers, chillies and mustard seeds to my sliced up achocha and shallots - it should give quite a pop of flavour!

A printable pdf of my jam and pickle recipes can be found here; could be useful for those who've decided to give the seeds a go next year. (Seeds will be posted this weekend. If anyone else would like some, let me know; I'm happy to share.)  I'm thinking now of growing achocha fruits specifically for making this jam next year - it's yummy on bread with cheese.  


28 comments:

  1. It's not often I learn of a vegetable I haven't grown in my garden at one time or another, but achocha is completely new to me. Is it somehow an improvement over cucumber? Is the flavor similarly mild? As much as I like trying new plants, I'm a bit wary of something that might take over my whole trellis! I'm impressed with your resourcefulness in preserving the fruit.

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    1. Hi gretchenjoanna, thanks for leaving a comment. Yes, the flavour of achocha is mild but it's a different fruit to cucumber, although in the same botanical family. As achocha fruits mature, the watery flesh disappears and the seeds get larger and tougher. This is the stage that I slice and fry achocha or use in cooking. Immature fruits are too small for slicing like cucumber but can be eaten whole or sliced in half - they make an unusual addition to a salad bowl! The taste is much 'greener' that cucumber as well. If you don't want the plant to take over, keep cutting it back; you won't get as many fruits but it would be enough for a taste to see if you like it.

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  2. Oh, I see that you answered my question in your previous post!

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  3. Brilliant ideas for preserving them, well done you. I shall remember to pop back to this post in a year's time should I have a glut. CJ xx

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    1. Ah, thanks, CJ. In a year's time I'll have forgotten how I made jam out of the fruit so this post will remind me as well! Let's hope there's gluts for all of us! Cxx

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  4. An interesting, and informative, post. Achocha is something that I've never tasted. Flighty xx

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    1. I've never seen achocha for sale here, Flighty, even given the international variety of greengrocery available here in London. I think you'd have to grow some to experience them. They're interesting and I grow them because I like the height and greenery they create; also because they fruit at the same time as beans and provide an alternative to those as well as being useful in stir fries, etc. C xx PS Let me know if you'd like some seed, you'd be more than welcome.

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  5. Well done you for being hugely resourceful. I too hate waste especially having nurtured a crop to fruition! That jam cut with the feta cheese looks delicious.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. Yes the jam was awesome with the feta cheese! I know what I'll be doing with my crop next year!

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  6. Thanks for the recipes (and for the seed, in advance) - this was just like me with my glut of green tomatoes earlier in the year when blight struck! I made loads of chutney and relish but the trouble is, I don't actually eat the stuff. Ah well, lots for Xmas gifts. The jam sounds great. If we don't eat all the achocha fresh, I'll definitely give it a try.

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    1. Hi Lucy, thanks for leaving a comment. I don't seem to be able to click through to get a blog or email address for you, so not sure how to get hold of you. Could you use the Contact Me at the top of this page to get in touch. I'm very happy to send seed once I have your address! Thanks, Caro x

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    2. Thanks, Caro, you already have my details and you said you'd send me seed - I replied to your previous post about achocha. ;-)

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    3. You're very welcome, always happy to share. Apologies for the confusion as I didn't connect you with your 'nom de plume'! Glad the seeds arrived safely and hope they grow well for you next year.

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  7. I could have done with this advice a couple of years back when our greenhouse was taken over by achocha plants! You had to hack your way in there. We ate as many as we could fresh, but still ended up composting a large number. Pickles are a great idea. I haven't dared to try them again since, but might try one or two plants next year with this in mind. :o)

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    1. Hi Julia, Thanks for leaving a comment. I'm pleased to know that achocha did (more than) well for you up in Dumfries, albeit in your greenhouse. My plants were tamed by being grown outdoors but still went up and down the other side of a 9ft high arch! And even then, reached out for surrounding plants, like a rampant triffid. I grew two plants this year and that was plenty for me as they fruit at the same time as courgettes and beans.

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  8. Achocha sounds most intiguing Caro :) If you still have seed to spare I would love to give them a try next year. Those little green prickly hedgehogs look as if they would be fun to grow :)

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    1. Hi Anna, I've contacted you for the address and will posting some seeds to you as soon as I know where to send them. They are great fun to grow, not least because the plant grows so rapidly but also because no-one knows what they are!

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    2. Thanks Caro - have just emailed you via your contact box. Ooooooh - I like a touch of mystery.

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  9. The jam and pickle sound delicious and I'm sure the pickle would make an interesting gift if you don't like it! I'm very impressed by your resourcefulness in dealing with this unplanned glut :-) Sam x

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    1. Thanks, Sam - At one point I thought I was going to have to eat the lot and would have made some sort of vegetarian curry - hey! that's not a bad idea! I like pickle in moderation so am looking forward to trying this one, especially with the addition of chillies and mustard seed. Caro x

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  10. Oh....well done you!!! What an inspiration you are, that windfall has certainly been put to good use!xxx

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    1. :o) xx Thanks Dina! Trouble is, once you start to find recipes, it's hard to stop! I'm putting together a file of recipes that I can convert or use for the veg I grow - I may even post a few of them here for future reference! Cxx

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  11. Wow you have done so much with your crop! You have set us a marker to follow! Where did you get the original seed from? Sarah x

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    1. Hi Sarah, I came across the seed a several years ago on the Real Seed website, on their cucumber page. I liked that the plant was so unusual and that buyers are encouraged to save their own seed for the future. They also seem to get hold of quite a few unusual (and tempting!) plants. Caro xx

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  12. Thanks for sharing your ideas! I'll be interested to see how the preserves work out - like you, we don't normally eat them, and it never feels like a sensible idea just to make them in the hope that we might!

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    1. H Emma, the jam is delicious either on toast or as a sort of chutney to go with cheese. I'll definitely be making more of that next year. I'm leaving the pickle to develop the flavours for now but will report back in due course - I agree, there's little point in preserving food that is unlikely to get eaten. I'm always experimenting to see what works for me.

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Comments on my posts are much appreciated and help to build an online community of blog friends. Everyone is welcome! I love to discover new blogs so please leave a comment to introduce yourself.
Caro x

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