Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Ind. sem. hort. acad. Goetting. (1831); Linnaea 8, Litt. Berichte: 23 (1833).
2n = 16, 32
Slipper gourd, lady’s slipper, stuffing cucumber, achocha (En). Achocha (Fr). Tamiá de comer, tamiá de cipô (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cyclanthera pedata is a native of Andean South America, but now only known in cultivation or as an escape. It is cultivated from Mexico to Peru and Ecuador and also in the Old World tropics. In Africa cultivation is restricted to highlands of East Africa.
Young fruits are eaten raw or pickled. Older fruits are eaten after removal of the seeds and boiling. The taste is similar to that of cucumber. Young shoots and leaves are eaten as greens. Cyclanthera pedata has the reputation of being anti-inflammatory, hypocholesterolaemic and hypoglycaemic. An extract of the fruit is marketed under the name Cycladol.
The fruit contains per 100 g: water 94 g, protein 0.6 g, fat 0.1 g, carbohydrate 4 g, fibre 0.7 g, Ca 14 mg, P 14 mg, Fe 0.8 mg, thiamin 0.04 mg, riboflavin 0.04 mg, niacin 0.3 mg, ascorbic acid 14 mg (Rubatzky & Yamaguchi, 1997).
Investigations into the chemical constituents of Cyclanthera pedata seeds and fruits have revealed the presence of 6 flavon glycosides, 9 triterpenoid saponins and 6 cucurbitacin glycosides.
Annual, monoecious vigorous vine; stem up to 5 m long, glabrous; tendrils bifid. Leaves alternate, palmately 3–5-foliolate or simple but very deeply lobed; stipules absent; petiole 1–8 cm long; leaflets or lobes elliptical, sinuate-serrate. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous; male flowers in axillary, 10–20 cm long panicles; female flowers solitary, with inferior, 1-celled ovary. Fruit an indehiscent, obliquely ovoid berry up to 16 cm long, tapering, flattened, white-green, sometimes with soft spines, many-seeded. Seeds c. 1.5 cm in diameter, black.
Cyclanthera is placed in Cyclanthereae, an entirely New World tribe. Cyclanthera brachystachya (Ser.) Cogn. (synonym: Cyclanthera explodens Naudin, called ‘fat baby’) is cultivated locally in Cameroon at altitudes of 1500–2000 m as a fruit vegetable. It differs notably from Cyclanthera pedata in its explosively dehiscent, small fruits (2–4 cm long).
Cyclanthera pedata is fairly tolerant of cold and cultivated in the tropics at altitudes of 2000–3000 m.
Propagation is by seed. Plants are spaced at 90 cm × 90 cm. They have to be staked. Fruits are harvested from about 3 months after planting. Plants usually remain productive with abundant fruiting for several months. Harvesting is preferably done when the fruits are full-sized but still immature.
Genetic resources and breeding
Interest in Cyclanthera pedata is mainly in the Americas and India, where commercial cultivars are marketed.
In highland areas in tropical Africa Cyclanthera pedata certainly has a future as a vegetable crop. Products based on a fruit extract are marketed in the United States and western Europe as a herbal medicine against high cholesterol levels, and demand might well increase.
• Jeffrey, C., 1967. Cucurbitaceae. In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 157 pp.
• Montoro, P., Carbone, V., de Simone, F., Pizza, C. & de Tomassi, N., 2001. Studies on the constituents of Cyclanthera pedata fruits: isolation and structure elucidation of new flavonoid glycosides and their antioxidant activity. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 49(11): 5156–5160.
• National Research Council, 1989. Lost crops of the Incas: little-known plants of the Andes with promise for worldwide cultivation. National Academy Press. Washington D.C., United States. 415 pp.
• Rubatzky, V.E. & Yamaguchi, M., 1997. World vegetables: principles, production and nutritive values. 2nd Edition. Chapman & Hall, New York, United States. 843 pp.
• van den Bergh, M.H., 1993. Minor vegetables. In: Siemonsma, J.S. & Kasem Piluek (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 8. Vegetables. Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, Netherlands. pp. 280–310.
• Cucurbit Network, 2003. Cyclanthera pedata. [Internet] http://www.cucurbit.org/family.html?=cycl_ped.html. Accessed 10 February 2003.
• Huxley, A. (Editor), 1992. The new Royal Horticultural Society dictionary of gardening. Volume 1. MacMillan Press, London, United Kingdom. 815 pp.
• Jeffrey, C., 1980. A review of the Cucurbitaceae. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 81: 233–247.
• Keraudren, M., 1967. Cucurbitacées (Cucurbitaceae). Flore du Cameroun. Volume 6. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 192 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2004. Cyclanthera pedata (L.) Schrad. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.