How to coccinia?

Started by Martin Bohnet, October 21, 2022, 12:54:45 AM

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Martin Bohnet

Hi all,

In a fit of "try everything remotely geophytic" I helped myself to seeds of Coccinia abyssinica in spring. two actually germinated, and I planted them out into a mortar bucket after last frost with Tigridia pavonia
Height: 45-80 cm (1.5-2.6 ft)
Flower Colors: white, red, yellow, pink, orange, patterned
Special: edible storage organ
Life form: deciduous bulb
Climate: USDA Zone 8-9
, mostly because I wanted to add some "vertical interest" to it. Actually, the plants had a big slug problem, one disappeared quickly, the other a few months later (July?) without growing very big. I thought I had lost it, but when I pulled the Tigridias for winter, I found the longer surviving plant has formed a tuber, roughly 4 cm in diameter.

Has anyone any idea how to grow this on or should I just eat it? The plant seems to be an important food crop in the Ethiopian highlands. Researching the climate there I'm at least unsurprised the tuber withstood the well-watered conditions for the tigridias - Nekemte has a yearly precipitation of almost 2000 mm /79 Inches. I guess the heat has forced it underground, but cooling down hasn't restarted it.

 I'm aware that a single survivor of a dioecious species isn't perfect. I think I have a few seeds left, when should I start them?
Martin (pronouns: he/his/him)

Martin Bohnet

hmm - the video wasn't that`helpful -  Seeds in April, outside after last frost. Check. And Minnesota should be continental climate, so the heat should have been worse. Besides that it seems they are cultivated annual for food - the tuber obviously wants to be perennial, but no clue on storage and what triggers regrowth.

The other link will prove helpful for a few more root crops I've been trying, thank you!
Martin (pronouns: he/his/him)

Diane Whitehead

Were you thinking of eating the root?

There are a couple of other species of Coccinia but the roots are not eaten:

C. grandis - young leaves are cooked and eaten.  Young tender green fruits are eaten raw in salads, boiled, steamed, fried, added to curries, or fermented and added to soups. The somewhat sweet ripe scarlet fruit is eaten raw, or occasionally candied. 

There is a sweet cultivar that is propagated from stem cuttings as the seed is sterile.

C. quinqueloba - it seems only the leaves are eaten.  In Malawi they are cooked with peanuts and tomatoes, or mixed with pumpkin leaves.
Diane Whitehead        Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
cool mediterranean climate  warm dry summers, mild wet winters  70 cm rain,   sandy soil

Steve Marak

I haven't grown this, Martin, but asked some people I know with Ethiopian connections. They didn't know it either (now they want to try it, if we can find a source) but in the process we found another video I thought more helpful:

About 21 minutes, the experience of an anchote novice over two seasons with growing and eating it (in Pennsylvania, U.S.).

During the discussion about genus Coccinia, a member of our little group in Hawaii mentioned that C. grandis is a major problem there. He said the tubers can get enormous and that he weeds out volunteer seedlings regularly.


Martin Bohnet

Hmm - very interesting, the tubers seem difficult to store - i'll report on my experiment. Also, the late point of free germination may mean that I planted them out too early and maybe shocked them too hard from room temperature to frost free outdoor. I'm still intrigued, I'll stay on the topic.

As he mentiones it: I'm really not too afraid of Cucurbitaceae going invasive here - I'm only mildly aware of Bryonia alba in Middle Europe, and I've never seen it out of control outside of strongly disturbed areas.
Martin (pronouns: he/his/him)

Steve Marak

Quote from: Martin Bohnet on October 31, 2022, 05:18:55 AMAs he mentiones it: I'm really not too afraid of Cucurbitaceae going invasive here - I'm only mildly aware of Bryonia alba in Middle Europe, and I've never seen it out of control outside of strongly disturbed areas.
I was asked about the hardiness of C. abyssinica, but perfunctory Googling didn't show much. Several sites gave USDA zone 8 for C. grandis. But the USDA site shows C. grandis as known in the U.S. only from Hawaii, Texas, and Florida, and even Florida, which is understandably rather sensitive about aggressive exotic plants, doesn't seem to consider it a problem, so I wonder if zone 8 is an overstatement.


Martin Bohnet

Actually, the argument in the video wasn't about hardiness, but about prolific seed production in a relatively short growth period. He already proves the idea weak as coccinea is dioecious - so his single volunteer escaping will not explode into a population.

That type of invasiveness works wonderfully for Impatiens glandulifera or Papaver somniferum, species with either a sophisticated distribution method or seeds that blend perfectly into the dust. I'm actually surprised that so many things don't really become invasive in the wild around me that can take over a temperate garden. Things that come in mind are Ipomoea purpurea or hederifolia, Calendula officinalis or Nigella damascena. And others, which seem less aggressive in the garden actually can take over whole continents - like Digitalis purpurea. Invasiveness is a complicated topic.
Martin (pronouns: he/his/him)