Cassabanana (Sicana odorifera)

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At first blush, the Cassabanana plant seems stranger than fiction: It is not a banana; rather, it is in the Cucurbitaceae (cucumber) family. Sicana odorifera is also commonly known as casbanan, sikana, puttigel and musk cucumber— among others —but none of its given names seem quite right. This plant is a perennial fruiting vine that can also be cultivated as a long-season annual. It bears enormous, 2-foot-long fruit, with a hard shell that can range in color from orange-red, to maroon, to jet-black, to dark purple. The inside is made up of a sweet, yellow fruit similar to cantaloupe.

It’s no wonder that this fruit is grown, cherished, and sometimes placed on church altars in Latin American countries where it was first documented: The sheer volume and strength of Sicana odorifera seems like an act of God! To that point, it has a number of uses in medicinal and culinary traditions, with a place in recipes for beverages, soups, jams, and more. To grow Cassabanana, you will need a strong trellis for it to climb. Once well-established, it will produce an abundance of fruit that will be ready for harvest towards the end of the summer. Harvested fruit will keep for several months if it is kept in dry conditions and out of the sun.

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