Sicana odorifera, the only species of the genus Sicana, is a large, herbaceous perennial vine that is believed native to Brazil but it has been spread throughout tropical America. Historians have evidence that it was cultivated in Ecuador in pre-Hispanic times. It was first mentioned by European writers in 1658 as cultivated and popular in Peru. It is grown near sea-level in Central America but the fruit is carried to markets even up in the highlands. Venezuelans and Brazilians are partial to the vine as an ornamental, but in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico it is grown for the usefulness of the fruit. English names include Cassabanana and musk cucumber. In some regions Cassabanana is grown as an ornamental and the fruits are kept for a lengthy period because of their long lasting fragrance. In warm regions, if planted near a tree the vine can climb to a considerable height. It is frequently planted to grow over a trellis.
The vine is perennial, herbaceous, fast-growing, heavy, requiring a strong trellis; climbing trees to 50 ft or more by means of 4-parted tendrils equipped with adhesive discs that can adhere tightly to the smoothest surface. Young stems are hairy. The leaves are gray-hairy, rounded-cordate or rounded kidney-shaped, to 1 ft wide, deeply indented at the base, 3-lobed, with wavy or toothed margins, on petioles 1 1/2 to 4 3/4 in long.
Flowers are white or yellow, urn-shaped, 5-lobed, solitary, the male 3/4 in long, the female about 2 in long. Renowned for its strong, sweet, agreeable, melon-like odor, the striking fruit is ellipsoid or nearly cylindrical, sometimes slightly curved; 12 to 24 in length, 2 3/4 to 4 1/2 in thick, hard-shelled, orange-red, maroon, dark-purple with tinges of violet, or entirely jet-black; smooth and glossy when ripe, with firm, orange-yellow or yellow, cantaloupe-like, tough, juicy flesh, 3/4 in thick. In the central cavity, there is softer pulp, a soft, fleshy core, and numerous flat, oval seeds, 5/8 in long and 1/4 in wide, light-brown bordered with a dark-brown stripe, in tightly-packed rows extending the entire length of the fruit.
The immature fruit is often cooked and served in soups and stews or made into preserves. Ripened fruit is also used as a centerpiece that perfumes an entire room with a wonderful, fresh melon fragrance. In Puerto Rico, the flesh is cut up and steeped in water, with added sugar, overnight at room temperature so that it will ferment slightly. The resultant liquor is sipped frequently and strips of the flesh are eaten, too, to relieve sore throat. It is believed beneficial also to, at the same time, wear a necklace of the seeds around the neck.
3 cups of cooked Cassa-Banana pulp
1 / 2 cup milk
1 tbsp (tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 spoon (soup) of clarified butter
Pepper 1 finger-seeded woman chopped into squares
1 spoon (soup) of finely chopped parsley
1 pinch of salt
Place the pulp in a saucepan and stir in raw milk. Beat well with mixer (if not, press the pulp through sieve or potato masher before adding the milk). Return to heat and simmer, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat, add butter and stir to melt. Add salt if necessary. Separately, heat the clarified butter and add the pepper and parsley. Turn off the heat and add a pinch of salt. Place the puree in a bowl and decorate with butter.
Serves: 3 cups mashed