Potol is also known as Achocha and this plant is native to warmer climates than the UK, like India and Latin America. 2021 was my first time growing this plant and I will never exclude it from my summer vegetables ever again!
See my Potol growing in my greenhouse here.
This climbing plant was cultivated from some seeds from a friend in Dorset. The seeds are extraordinary in themselves (see more below) but they give you no clue about how productive this plant is. Started on a heated propagation mat, the success of seed germination was not excellent but once in the ground, I see why this plant is classed as invasive in its native Peru and Asia.
Please see Potol on my YouTube channel YouTube link Growing Potol in the UK.
Description of the Potol Plant
The leaves are very pretty, they curl and twist like the storybook climbing beans and the flowers arrive in scented, yellow cup shapes which dazzle in their beauty. The flowers bring swarms of pollinators and the plant expands all over your garden. Then the fruit start to arrive. Day after day, Potol produces 3-5 fruits for picking. This is prolific. Compared to cucumbers, Potol offers green vegetables from June right through to October and is still growing in the UK October.
In 2021 I decided to try this plant out in my UK garden and wow! The climbing leaves have attractive foliage, which provide a darker, green background for the spectacular bunches of yellow blooms, which bring in multitudes of pollinators every day. The resulting fruit will surprise you with its pale green elongated colour against the darker green foliage, and its pointed-shaped fruit can become 10-14 cm long. These grow every single day of the summer. I have never seen such growth from a summer vegetable! Outdoor cucumbers often have pointy edges too but this fruit has spikes, without any pain when you touch them. Potol is one of a family of vigorous, climbing vines which produce multiple fruit every day of the long summer, which can be cooked as a green vegetable, summer soups, made into purees to freeze for winter use or in curry dishes. It has become one of my favourites of 2021 for its generous fruit, its delicate hanging cup flowers, and the abundant foliage which curls its way around every available space. The final surprise is the shape of its seeds; for a UK based vegetable grower, these are unusual and marked with a cross.
Does Potol have other names?
Potol has many names worldwide including the Pointed Gourd, Acocha, Caigua, Parwal, and Tindora. It is grown in climates that can offer warm sunshine in summer and this is a plant that aims for the sky, seeking out every last bit of sunshine and it will grow metres to do so. If you provide it with a shed to climb or a row of sunflowers, you will join all the growers from Brazil, Peru and Bolivia in Latin America and all over Asia including India to many sites in Italy and France.
How to grow Potol
1. Sow the seed in a pot of compost, water it and cover it with plastic to retain heat and moisture. I advise you to sow lots because I had a very low germination rate. In retrospect, I believe the seeds only start growing when the temperatures are suitably warm so the best results were from a heated propagation mat. A warm sunny windowsill indoors will do the same job but do not bother sowing until at least March.
2. Once they germinate, you will need to pot them on quickly, because they grow like crazy. They are not frost hardy so protect them until the last frost is gone.
3. Transplant them into a greenhouse if possible. I discovered in the UK, the most productive plants will continue right up to November but their roots are sensitive to the cold. Add climbing stakes at this stage because you have been warned! These will fill an entire greenhouse in months.
4. Add a good layer of manure or compost to the soil and dig it in well. I added compfrey leaves and wood ash to the mixture too. Make a small hole bigger than the pot and then ease the plant out and gently place it in the hole and water it in well.
5. Close the door on the greenhouse and keep this plant warm until the summer arrives. Attach its growing stems around the climbing stakes regularly and tie them in.
How to cook Potol
This Potol fruit does need to be cooked before eating, so don’t be tempted to eat it raw. They add rich-flavoured, green fruit to any spicy dishes and they absorb the sauce but also provide a soft texture on the palette. I am told by the person who gave them to me that the seeds are spicy and can be added to curries, to give a distinct flavour that will not disappoint. They are also reported to help relieve constipation in small quantities.
These can count as one of you 5 a day! These nutritious vegetables are quite bland in themselves so they give some respite to really hot curries. Potol contain vitamin A and C as well as a range of nutrients such as magnesium and potassium. For anybody needing to add fibre to their diet, they are a useful way.
1. Potol soup
You will need:
5-6 Potol fruits, some garlic and onion, salt and pepper, bay leaves, a sprig of thyme and some turmeric. Natural yogurt and parsley to serve.
Cut the end of the fruit first, then slice lengthways and avoid destroying the black or brown seeds inside. Remove the seeds (for use as seeds or in cooking) and chop the rest of the fruit into strips. Fry them gently with a little onion and then add some water. Cook with a bay leaf, a clove of garlic and some thyme for about 20 mins. If you like turmeric this adds a fantastic colour to this soup. Whizz the mixture with a blender until it is a good consistency and serve with natural yogurt, grated cheese and parsley for garnish.
TIP: this soup freezes well so you can enjoy soup when the vegetable has died off for the winter.
2. Fried Potol.
These soft fleshy vegetables are unusual in the UK but you can cook them and add them to anything that requires a green vegetable. Chop the fruit in half and remove the seeds, cut them into smaller strips and add them to any green vegetable dish They are very soft and easy to eat, flavoured simply without any strong taste so they will absorb the juices of whichever pot they cook them in.
3. Potol Chutney
You will need:
As many Potol fruit as you have available. Sugar – will preserve the mixture so be generous, at least 10-20 grams per weight of fruit. 2-3 cloves. 1 Bay leaf. Any windfall apples available. Cinnamon stick. Salt and pepper to taste.
If you add some spicy sauces, Potol chutney is a winner in my house! Start with some chopped onion, add some garlic and some chopped chili. Fry these for a few minutes and then add spices of your choice. With windfall apples cooked and added into this mixture the resulting chutney and sweet hints and uses up the apples. Add some cloves for extra flavour and experiment with salt and pepper to find your preferred taste. The thing about Potol is that the fruit is so abundant, you can try several different types of chutney.
How to dry the seeds
Dry the seeds by removing them and laying them to dry in a well ventilated place on a paper towel. Then when dry, store in a paper bag or recycled envelope.
The plentiful seeds will get your creative juices flowing – there is a ready supply of them from every fruit you cook too. Some seeds dry black and others a beige, sandy colour so these are popular for stringing as necklaces in addition to flavouring your curries. Remember to save some for next year’s crop!
Can you freeze Potol?
Yes, I have frozen Potol since 2021 and I have to admit that supplies are always gone before the end of March. The first year I separated the seeds into separate containers and this takes a long time. In 2022, I just picked the fruit and froze it directly in a bag. To use from frozen takes more time because you will need to remove the seeds sooner or later. If you allow the fruit to defrost, then remove seeds it will take longer than just using frozen sliced Potol but either way works.
You can also cook dishes and freeze them for easy use in the winter months. I have made soup and used it over the winter as a quuck lunch.
Potol is a very unusual plant to grow here in the UK but you should be able to grow one successfully in the southern counties and with some early frost protection in more northern counties. This is a great plant to cook and share with your loved ones. Your family and friends are going to want seeds when they taste it. Potol is so productive that as long as you give it fertile soil, you can enjoy these tasty vegetables from June to November here in the UK.