Chayote, Sechium edule

Chayote is also known as the Vegetable Pear and the Mirliton. This vegetable is a member of the cucurbit family, which means it is a type of squash. It is probably the strangest looking squash you will find in your grocery store. chayote

The fruit is light green in color and pear shaped. The fruit is produced on vigorous growing vines that are cold sensitive.

To grow your own chayote, you would plant the entire fruit in the spring after all danger of frost. The plants should be spaced at least 8 to 10 feet apart. The vine should be trellised to provide support for maximum production. Heavy fertilization should be avoided or excessive vine growth will reduce yields. As with all cucurbits, male and female flowers are borne on the same plant requiring bees for pollination.

Chayotes are beginning to show up on the market, usually in late summer and early fall when the fruits reach a good size and ripen.

Choose a chayote that is firm and free of bruises and other damage. If you plan to eat it, avoid fruit that has started to germinate. You can tell if that is happening by inspecting the broad end of the chayote. If it is beginning to germinate, you will see a little stem with leaves beginning to poke out of the “dimple”. If it is sprouting, don’t eat it… plant it!

Like all squash, chayotes will shrivel badly if stored under dry conditions regardless of temperature. Place in a container or plastic bag before storing in the refrigerator to maintain high humidity conditions. In fact, before putting your chayote into the plastic bag or other container, fill it with cool water and then dump out the water. The moisture clinging to the sides will help to provide the necessary humidity. The ideal storage conditions are about 50 to 59o F. and 90 percent humidity. Chayotes undergo chilling injury below 50o F. so that means your refrigertor may be too cold.

Chayotes are low in calories. 3 ounces contain just 24 calories. They are low in sodium and a fair source of potassium.

Chayote is easy to prepare. Probably the easiest is to grate or shred it and make a slaw out of it, seed and all. Or you can peel it, cut into quarters, steam until fork-tender. Drain off the liquid and then add butter and season with fresh lemon or lime juice. Other possibilities include using it in place of potatoes for a unique chilled salad, marinated in vinaigrette dressing: combining with other vegetables in a fresh vegetable stew; stuffing with ground meat; serving au gratin, creamed, or breaded and fried. Chayote invites the cook’s imagination with discovery of its versatility.

To microwave the chayote, first wash, peel and cut about two pounds of chayote into quarters. Place in 1 qt. covered casserole with 1/4 cup water. Microwave on high 10-12 minutes. Drain and proceed as outlined above.


Leave a Reply