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Caigua, also known as sparrow gourd, caihua, cayua, lady's slipper, slipper gourd, among other names, is a vegetable native to South America, specifically Peru. In Colombia, the vegetable is locally known as pepino and it is sold as korila in the Philippines. In addition to being used as a ingredient in food preparations, lady's slipper is popular for its health benefits.

Essentially, cayua is the name of the vine that produces the fruit. Korila is a cucumber-like vegetable that has a mellow taste and is solid and crunchy, when fresh off the vine. There are various caigua types used in various parts of the world.

History and Origin of Caihua

Caigua has a very long history. It has been used as a fruit and food ingredient since the ancient times. Most likely, the vegetable was first cultivated and used in Central America and South America. Some records suggest that it was also grown in parts of the Eastern Hemisphere tropics. The fruit has been found in ancient art and there are mentions of it in the National Research Council's book 'Lost Crops of the Incas'.

In today's times, slipper gourd is available and used almost everywhere in the world. It is mostly grown in Peru and across the Andes.

Caigua Types

Caigua is available in various forms, specifically in Peru where it is an important pickle ingredient and fruit. Almost every part of the vegetable is used to treat one health ailment or another and it is basically classified based on what parts are used for treatments, weight loss and other health benefits. While it is important to note that there is concrete scientific research backing the health advantages associated with korila, people's beliefs have not been dissuaded.

Seeds of sparrow gourd are used by Peruvians to make a special tea that is believed to lower blood pressure. While the seeds are being dried and crushed for consumption as a general-purpose tea beverage, they are sometimes also taken for stomach problems and gastrointestinal disorders.

The leaves of the plant are sometimes brewed and used as a diabetes treatment.

It is believed that the juice of the vegetable is very potent. It is consumed for a range of health problems, particularly to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. It is also said to help manage circulatory troubles and diabetes.

Slipper gourd is widely marketed and used as a weight-loss supplement, mostly is capsule form.

Korila as a Food

The immature Caigua is popularly eaten as a fruit (raw) and used in pickles. As the vegetable grows, unlike a cucumber, it becomes very hollow. When used in culinary preparations as a mature vegetable, lady's slipper is stuffed and then eaten. The shoots and leaves are sometimes used in salads and can be eaten as greens.

Sparrow Gourd: Trivia

The Moche culture is well known for its fascination with Caigua. The vegetable is often displayed in their art. The vegetable is often made into a ceramic sculpture.