Stuffed cucumbers are a delicacy, and if you have travelled in the Andes, you may have come across something even better, namely a dish made from the fruits of Cyclanthera pedata – also a cucurbit – which grow a big cavity wanting to be filled with other food stuffs as if to prove “intelligent design”. There is now much hype surrounding the supposedly “pharmacological effects” from swallowing capsules containing a flour made from the dried fruits, but we derive much greater pleasure from eating a well cooked “pepino de rellenar”, or caigua or achojcha as the fruit is known in mountainous areas of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
The common names used in Bhutan for this plant include “slippery gourd”, “olochoto” and “kichipoktho” (crow’s beak), “korila” (also used for bitter gourds) as well as “ajangkairu” and “carabanthu”. Dr Thimmaiah describes the plant as a vigorous annual climber, which grows up to 5-7 meters length. Propagation is by seeds. The plants are spaced at 1 by 1 meters and staked after the first leaves have appeared. In kitchen gardens the plant is allowed to creep on fences. The first fruits can be harvested in about 45 days after planting, and the plants bear fruits for several months. The plant also does well when cultivated in plastic greenhouses during winter months. Slippery gourds fetch a good price in the market. In the early season it is sold at about US$ 2 per kg, at peak season at about US$1 per kg.
In Bhutan the slippery gourd is cooked with local cheese and chillies. The fruit are cut in halves longitudinally and briefly boiled in salted water. Local cheese and chillies are put to the pan and cooked for another 5 minutes. This dish it is called ‘datsi’ or ‘olochoto datsi’.