Achocha, a herbaceous vigorous vine is one of the very rarely sown vegetables in Europe. To Croatia it was brought only few years back and it still doesn't even have a name, although some call it "wild cucumber".
Originated from Andes it has spread to whole central America and it is slowly spreading through the rest of the world.
Probably the biggest obstacle for more rapid spreading of the plant is the fact that it is very sensitive to frost(hardy zone 9 to 11) and with it's long growth season in some parts of the world it can't be grown unless it is cultivated in greenhouses.
Cultivation of Achocha can be started from seeds or cuttings. Seeds are irregular shaped, black and pretty big. They fill the inside of the fruit as soon as the fruit starts growing. At first they are soft and can be eaten but as soon as the cucumber reaches few centimetres in size they become hard and have to be removed before consummating the fruit.
Sowing should be done indoors in small pots at the same time as the tomato season starts(early spring). The time can not be too early because the plant takes very long to start forming flowers. but it starts growing climbing tendrils that need support from the start so it is good to have in mind that a plant will need a climbing twig even before the transplanting it outside.
When transplanting achocha gardener should have in mind that it likes a moist but well drained soil. It can grow in any type of soil as long as it has enough water because the roots are fairly close to the surface and don't grow too long. From my experience it prefers shade rather than sunny places.
If planted to grow on poles they need a distance of 1 meter because of the leaf mass. Also if grown on poles The pole should have some string or some kind of climbing help because the whole leaf mass can slip down the pole from the weight. If grown on the net plant it directly under the net, then it doesn't need any additional help, still it will form big leaf mass on top of the net.
Flowers on Achocha are monoceus but both male and female flowers are on the same plant and are pollinated by insects. Flowering season starts in August and continues till first frost. Flowers are very tiny and white.
Fruits are very small at the beginning and get bigger with time. usually they are ready withing a week. If left too long they will get shrunken and the skin will become hard.
There are few varieties of the Cyclanthera each have different fruits. Some are dark green and smooth, some have pale green fruits, while others have little spikes on their fruits.
One plant can produce from 0.5 to 3kg of fruits.
Achocha is the plant that has edible leaves and fruits, leaves can be eaten as young greens while fruits can be cooked, baked, stuffed like marrows, or used as pickled cucumbers. Fruits taste like mils cucumbers.