Caigua (pronounced kai-wa) hails from Peru, where it has served the native populace as both food and medicine for countless centuries. The ceramic art of the Moche—a pre-Incan culture that thrived between 100 AD and 800 AD—frequently celebrated agricultural subjects, which often included caigua. Also known as the “stuffing cucumber,” caigua is a hollow, thin-walled fruit that readily lends itself to being served with other foods placed within its trough-like center.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Caigua has been successfully put through the paces of scientific scrutiny to test long-standing claims regarding its efficacy as a powerful weight-reduction aid. The fruit improves heart health by increasing good cholesterol (HDL) while at the same time reducing bad cholesterol (LDL). The seeds are brewed into an herbal tea to control high blood pressure and to address gastrointestinal disorders. Crushed and taken in doses of one gram, the dried seeds are also used to rid the body of intestinal parasites. Considered hypoglycemic, the leaves of the plant are prepared for consumption by diabetics. Boiled in olive oil, the fruits and leaves are used externally to reduce inflammation and pain. Even the caigua root has a health-giving function, being used to clean the teeth. Caigua also helps reduce fat and cellulite.
ABOUT THE HERB
This herbaceous vine was known as wild cucumber long before successful efforts established it as a fully domesticated food crop. The vine grows 40 feet and its leaves are 5 inches wide. The pale green fruit can reach 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width. Adapted to survive both warm and cold conditions, caigua can be found growing over one mile above the Peruvian terrain.
Caigua may be eaten raw or cooked after the seeds have been removed. As a salad ingredient, this soft pepper offers a mild taste that masks a potent weight regulator and cholesterol sentinel. Caigua should not be consumed during pregnancy.