Cyclanthera pedata, known as caigua, is a herbaceous vine grown for its edible fruit, which is predominantly used as a vegetable. It is known from cultivation only, and its use goes back many centuries as evidenced by ancient phytomorphic ceramics from Peru depicting the fruits.
Origin and distribution
Cyclanthera pedata is a vine that can be 12 m long; the stems are thin; and the leaves can be up to 24 cm long, palmate or pedate in shape. The small flowers can be greenish or white and are borne in racemes. The fruit is light green, ovoid, curved, up to 15 cm long, almost hollow (except for the seeds and a thin flesh layer), with smooth skin or sometimes covered in soft spines; the seeds are black.
Cyclanthera pedata is grown at small scale farming in mountain areas of Mexico, Central America and South America. It is sometimes cultivated in Asia. This species can be grown in mountain areas up to 2000, being adapted to cool temperatures.
The fruits are eaten after removing the seeds and stuffing them with other foods like rice or meat, and then cooking them. Young shoots and leaves can also be eaten as greens. The fruits are a source of potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. Fruit flavor might be similar to cucumber or otherwise tasteless.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||17 kcal (71 kJ)|
|Dietary fiber||0.7 g|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.|
Caigua fruits generally exhibit high antioxidant activity but a low total phenolic content, which indicates that non-phenolic water-soluble compounds might be involved. Flavonoids are present in this cyclanthera species, which have antioxidant properties as well and were shown that with a high intake are correlated to a decrease in heart disease.
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