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
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.