The identity of the mystery veg is… achocha! Hey, even the name is cool, doncha think?
Apparently, it’s got a bunch of other aliases… like caigua, slipper gourd, lady’s slipper, sparrow gourd, but I know it as achocha.
I bought the achocha seeds, and the oca tubers, from a great little company called Real Seeds. They sell heirloom, open-pollinated seeds (you know, the kind you can save the seed from) of lots of really interesting varieties of familiar veg, as well as more unusual veg like quinoa, amaranth, exploding cucumbers, melothrie (another cuke relative), salsola, winter cooking radish etc. As well as oca tubers, they also sell ulluco and yacon tubers.
But anyway, back to achocha. This is our second year growing it, and it is really easy and fun. Achocha fruits are crunchy and delicious, tasting (to me, anyway) like a cross between green beans and peas. The little spines are soft and edible, but they can also be rubbed off easily. They’re best eaten at a size of about 2.5cm (1 inch) long.
Unlike peas and beans, achocha doesn’t get powdery mildew, which cut short our pea crop this year in the very very wet summer we had. Achocha doesn’t really seem to get going until about September (though maybe our wet summer was to blame), but then it’s very prolific, and keeps chugging out the fruit until frost (which, sadly, came in October this year). And we had NO pest problems (though you do watch out for those pesky slugs & snails before the plants get established).
Anyhoo, I’d highly recommend growing this interesting veg, very easy and rewarding. And because “weird vegetables are us”, you can look forward to more fun garden guessing games in future!