Achocha Cucumber, Wild Brazilian Chili, Cape May Salt Oyster, Mexican Sour Gherkin, Basil Flower & Annis Hyssop
The "achocha plant", which is native to the Andes region of Peru, produces these slipper shaped cucumbers. They have a fibrous spongy seed pack in the center and a crisp crunchy pod that tastes like a Persian cucumber. They grow well in the Appalachian region of North America as far north as New York. These are from southeastern PA.
As soon as I saw one of these cucumbers sliced in half and hollowed out at the market I immediately thought of stuffing an oyster into it. Cucumber and oyster are a pretty common pairing. Many oyster varieties, particularly on the West Coast, have a pronounced cucumber quality to them. So as you can see, this is exactly what I did. I sliced the cucumber in half, hollowed it out and placed a Cape May Salt into it.
These tiny, very hot chili peppers are obviously native to Brazil where they grow wild in the rainforests. Outside of the D.O.M. cookbook this was the first time I ever saw them. Apparently they are now being cultivated, by at least one farm, in eastern Pennsylvania. These chilis were sitting on the same farm stand as the cucumbers, and you can see where my brain went just after the oyster thought. I added one thinly sliced piece of chili to the oyster for some acid and just a touch of heat. I placed a few of the chilis in the salt just for presentation. These were the first that I've ever seen and I want to make sure everyone gets to see how beautiful they are.
Also sitting on the very same table were the Mexican Sour Gherkins. You will never guess where they are originally from. These little guys have been around for a while. I've been seeing them at the markets for years and I grew them a few years ago. Sticking with the Latin American theme I had going here, I sliced the cucumbers and gave them a very light cold pickle in some cane vinegar.
I finished the oyster off with a hyssop leaf and flower along with a basil flower. The subtle anise flavor of the hyssop pairs really well with seafood and the sweetness of the basil flower just added another element to go with all the cucumber flavor.
Cape May Salt Oyster - New Jersey via Ippolito's Seafood
Organic Achocha Cucumber - Happy Cat Farm
Organic Brazilian Chilis - Happy Cat Farm
Organic Mexican Sour Gherkins - Happy Cat Farm
Organic Basil Flower - My Garden
Organic Annis Hyssop - My Garden