Kaywa (Cyclanthera pedata) is a plant from the cucurbitaceae family that grows as a climbing shrub, and has a strong presence in the area around Pasto, a city in the west central part of the country. The fruit is quite small, between five and seven cm. long, and its shell has tiny spines that protect it; when the fruit is touched it explodes and spreads its seeds everywhere. The flavor, which is delicate and almost neutral, renders this product incredibly versatile, allowing for its use in sauces, meat fillers and risottos.
Kaywa is strictly cultivated within personal gardens, and as such it is difficult to find the product in local markets and it is quite hard to estimate how much is produced each year. In the regions in which it has adapted to the climate and soil conditions this bush can be productive the whole year round. The indigenous Andean communities have cultivated this plant since long before the arrival of the Spanish. It is not only present in the Pasto region, but also in much colder areas like the Nariño department. Kaywa enjoys strong cultural ties to the population as it is connected to the history, traditions and past generations of locals who used it much more widely in their diets.
The historic production areas are fairly cool, as kaywa requires low temperatures and constant humidity to grow well. In the Pasto region it is cultivated and also grows in the wild in the Cabrera, San Fernando, El Encano and La Laguna townships. This product is at risk of disappearing because the younger generations show less interest in this plant and its role in their daily diets, as their food preferences are tending more towards commercial products.Back to the archive >