How to grow chayote?

Growing chayote: Bury one fruit, get an epic plant

Even in the heat of summer, Horacio Fuentes doesn’t need any shade in his Wilshire Park backyard. After all, he has a chayote. A seamless sea of green runs from the second-floor eaves of his house to the detached garage in the back, shading the entire length of the driveway. It is one plant, just in its second year, resting on a flat DIY latticework of string, wire and PVC pipe.

The setup allows Fuentes to harvest the fruit from below easily, he says, although sometimes he has to get up on the roof of the garage

“I have to stop it from going over the neighbor’s wall,” he says.

The chayote is a Cuban variety — grown from a single fruit that he bought at a market and planted when a shoot began emerging from one end. One plant can produce 60 to 80 palm-sized fruit; covered in plastic and refrigerated, they can keep for a month or more.

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Chayote is the Zelig of edibles. Its subtle — almost indiscernible — taste and crisp, firm flesh (like a water chestnut) making it an ideal filler food, adaptable to the flavor of other ingredients. The plant originated in southern Mexico and was an Aztec staple, and it has since become a go-to gourd around the world, used in Indian chutneys, Vietnamese stir-fry, French quiches and New Orleans pies. An Australian urban legend that McDonald’s used chayote as a cheap substitute for Granny Smiths in hot apple turnovers was so persistent that, the Telegraph of Sydney reported, the fast-food chain set up a website to counter the claim.

All parts of the chayote (Sechium edule) are edible, from the root to the tender tips of the vines. But be warned. This fast-growing, sun-loving perennial can take over the garden, swallowing up gazebos, fences, sheds and giant plushies (see photo from Rosewood Community Garden). Chayote plants grow well with passionfruit, another gloriously invasive vine.

If you want to start a plant from store-bought chayote, look for an older one with a tough skin. Leave the fruit on the counter until a sprout emerges. Once this sprout is about 6 inches long, bury the fruit in well-drained, sandy soil at about a 45-degree angle, fat end down, sprout exposed. The roots are shallow, and the plant does best growing in a weed-free, well-mulched space, ideally at least 6 feet in diameter, slightly raised on a mound to avoid root rot.

Make sure a trellis or some other structure will provide support once the plant begins to climb. When the season is done, Fuentes cuts his back almost to the ground, leaving short stalks to winter over.

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And remember: You only need one plant.

The Global Garden, a look at our multicultural city through the lens of its landscapes, appears here on Tuesdays. For an easy way to follow future installments, join our Facebook page for Gardening in the West. Email: [email protected]

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Chayote

A.K.A

Mirliton, christophene, vegetable pear, custard marrow, or chocho

What is it?

The unusual-looking vegetable known as chayote (chah-YO-tay) is part of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, squashes, and melons. In season from September through May (when summer squash is not), chayote is similar in flavor—sweetly fresh, with delicate notes of cucumber—and has a firm, crisp crunch.

Once cultivated by the Aztecs, the chayote fruit (also called christophene, vegetable pear, custard marrow, chocho, and mirliton) is a member of the gourd family, which includes melons, cucumbers, and squash. The perennial climbing vine on which it grows originated in Mesoamerica but is found today in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. Not surprisingly, chayote—which is eaten as a vegetable—appears in Cajun, Caribbean, Latin American, North African, Australian, and Asian cuisines.

Chayotes can be pear-shaped or round, with smooth, hairy, or prickly dark- to lightgreen skin; their pale-green flesh surrounds a flat, edible seed. The chayotes found in the United States are smooth and apple-green on the outside and shaped like a pear, with a furrowed base that looks like a clenched fist.

Their subtle sweetness pairs with assertive flavors like red pepper flakes, fresh chiles, garlic, cilantro, scallions, lemon or lime juice, and warming spices like curry powder, cumin, and coriander. Chayote is also delicious with rich ingredients like coconut milk, butter, cheese, and bacon.

How to choose:

Chayotes may have smooth or spiky skin, but the smooth ones are what you’re likely to find in the United States. Look for chayotes in the produce aisle at the grocery store or in any Asian, Caribbean, or Latin American market. They should feel very firm and heavy for their size and be free of blemishes.

How to prep:

Chayotes have a mild cucumber-like flavor and can be prepared in any way you might use summer squash, raw or cooked.

Chayote skin is edible but not as tender as its flesh, so peeling is usually a good idea. The seed in the center of the fruit is also edible. It’s firm, not crisp like the surrounding flesh, and has a slightly nutty flavor; you can either leave it in or remove it by quartering the chayote and cutting it out, or by halving the fruit and spooning it out.

Prepare chayote the same way you might summer squash or cucumbers. Raw chayotes can be thinly sliced, julienned, or diced and added to salads, slaws, or salsas; they can also be pickled. Quick-cooking them in sautés (see recipe below) and stir-fries keeps chayotes crisp and juicy, but you can also deep-fry, stew, mash, roast, or stuff and bake them like a potato.

How to store:

Refrigerate chayotes in a plastic bag for up to a month.

    Recipes

  • Recipe

    Sautéed Chayote with Sweet Onion and Bacon

    In this quick side dish, the chayote remains crisp and juicy, even as it takes on the rich flavors of garlic and bacon. A hit of lemon juice at the…

  • Recipe

    Grilled Vegetable Tacos with Cilantro Pesto

    Zucchini and the Mexican squash called chayote make up the vegetarian filling for these soft tacos. If you can’t find chayote, substitute additional zucchini and yellow squash.

Chayote plant growing herbaceous vine of the genus Sechium also known as Chayote squash or Chuchu, Chayote plant is perennial plant but can grow as annual plant, mostly used for edible fruits also the tuber and the leaves edible can grow in mediterranean, subtropics or tropics climate and growing in hardiness zone 8-10 as annual and 11+ as perennial.

Leaves are edible when they are young and tender after that the leaves become hairy, the shape of the leaves is maple leaf shape.

Flower color is white, there are female and male flower.

Chayote plant edible fruits

Fruits edible are pear shaped, the color fruit are green or yellow. The weight is 100-900 gram, size 7-20 cm, the peal also edible and seeds are green-white and edible, taste reminds kohlrabi taste when eaten raw, recommend to harvest the fruit when it’s still soft, young and fully grown.

Tuber is edible brown skin and white from the inside

Chayote plant for sale – Seeds or Plants to Buy

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Chayote plantHarvesting Chayote plantChayote plant careGrowing Chayote plant

How to grow Chayote plant growing and care:

Trellising, frost free, well-drained soil, slightly acid

How to care:
Add organic matter, fertilize twice a year, cover with mulch

What is the best way to start growing?
Seedling / Seed / vegetative reproduction – cutting

Is it necessary to graft or use vegetative reproduction?
The seeds are part of the fruits and it’s impossible to separate them from the fruits, and it’s easy to start by cutting

Difficulties or problems when growing:
Aggressive

Planting season:
Spring in hardiness zone 8-10, spring to summer in hardiness zone 11, all the year in hardiness zone 12+.

How to plant:
Planting in well ventilated soil, dig bigger hole than the plant and put organic matter, humus and dead leaves

Pests and diseases:
Powdery mildew, aphids, moth, virus, beetles

Pruning season:
No need. But possible all the season

How to prune:
Infected leaves needed to take out, pruning mostly for design and easy pickup

Size of the plant:
5-10 m, 15-30 feet

Growth speed in Chayote plant:
Fast growing

Chayote plant Irrigation Water Management:
Average amount of water to big amount of water

Water requirement:
Full Sun

Is it possible to grow as houseplant?
No

Growing is also possible in a pot / planter /flowerpot / containers:
Yes

How to plant chayote in container:
Planting in containers need to be at least 20L (5 gallons), well-drained soil, the plant not react well to overwater, need to make enough holes in the container for good drainage also choosing soil for container important and need to be soil well ventilated, can be potting mix or peat soil with perlite, when use bottom for the pot need that it will dry in the same day.

Blooming information

Bloom season:
Late spring to summer autumn (in the tropical all year)

General information about the flower
White flower with five lobs, there are female and male flowers

Thinning the bloom:
Sometimes happened because disease or not enough water

Pollination is done by:
Bees and more pollinators, by hand

Edible Fruits

Fruit harvest season:
Summer to autumn (in the tropical all year)

Fruits pests or diseases:
Powdery mildew

What can be done with big quantities of Chayote plant fruits?
Cooked, baked, grilled, stir fry, fry, eaten raw

Work requirements on the fruit:
Trellising

How long does it take to bear fruit?
120-150 days (4-5 month)

Edible leaves

Leaves harvesting season:
All year

How to harvest the leaves?
From the base of the leaves

Information about leaves:
The shape of the leaves is maple leaf shape, the color light green

Uses of Chayote edible leaves:
Cooked, staffed leaves, stir fry, salad

Edible Roots

Information about tuber:
Brown skin and white from the inside

When to pull up tuber:
At least 10 month from planting can be all year long, in cold area in the autumn

Uses of Chayote edible tuber:
Cooked, staffed leaves, stir fry, salad

How to grow Chayote plant from seeds

Sowing requirement:
The seed germinate while inside the fruit, the seeds have short life and sprout plant from fruit

Saving seeds until sowing:
As long as the fruit alive the seed alive inside

Sowing season:
Spring in hardiness zone 8-10, spring to summer in hardiness zone 11, all the year in hardiness zone 12+.

How to plant:
Better to plant it in light soil that will be well ventilated and keep the moist like vermiculite

Planting spacing:
20-30 cm

Depth of Sowing:
Put the fruits on the soil and cover half of the fruits in 5cm (2 inches), possible without cover

Conditions for seeds germinate:
Moist soil, full sun

Watering requires for Seeds:
Average amount of water

Germination time:
10-20 days

Condition of seedling:
Warm weather, big amount of water, full sun, place to trellising

Do the seeds require burying?
No

Scientific name:

Sechium edule

Alternative names: Chayote squash, Chuchu, Mirliton plant, Sayote

Blooming Seasons

  • Spring flowers

Edible Parts

  • Edible Fruit
  • Edible leaves
  • Edible Roots

Culinary Uses

  • Eaten raw
  • Stuffed or Wrapped
  • Vegetables

Flower Colors

  • Yellow flower

Climate

  • Desert Climate
  • Mediterranean Climate
  • Subtropics Climate
  • Temperate Climate
  • Tropics Climate

Harvest season

  • Autumn Harvest
  • Spring Harvest
  • Summer Harvest
  • Winter harvest

Plant growing speed

  • Average growing plants
  • Fast growing plants

Plant life-form

  • Annual plant
  • Evergreen
  • Herbaceous
  • Perennial plant

Plant uses

  • Edible plants
  • Ornamental plants

Planting season

  • Autumn Planting
  • Spring Planting
  • Summer planting

Plants sun exposure

  • Full sun Plants

Watering plants

  • Regularly water

Hardiness zone

  • Hardiness zone 10
  • Hardiness zone 11
  • Hardiness zone 12
  • Hardiness zone 13
  • Hardiness zone 4
  • Hardiness zone 5
  • Hardiness zone 6
  • Hardiness zone 7
  • Hardiness zone 8
  • Hardiness zone 9

Chayote Squash Is the Super-Healthy Food You Haven’t Heard of but Need In Your Life

Photo: Natalie Board /

It sounds like a furry animal you would see in the desert-but it’s definitely not, and that’s also not how you say it. Here, everything you need to know about chayote.

What exactly is chayote?

First off: chayote (pronounced chi-yote) is a type of summer squash, says Wesley McWhorter, M.S., R.D., chef and dietitian at UTHealth School of Public Health. It’s technically considered a fruit-much like a tomato-but it probably isn’t something you want to bite into like an apple. It grows on a vine and originated in Mexico but is now grown in warm climates worldwide. Chayote squash looks like and has the crunchy texture of unripe pear, yet it has a mild, almost cucumber-like flavor, like less-sweet spaghetti squash. (Related: Healthy Ways to Cook Spaghetti Squash)

What are the health benefits of chayote?

Similar to other fruits, chayote (also affectionately known as cho-cho) is high in antioxidants and vitamins-specifically vitamin B, vitamin C, potassium, and amino acids. It’s super healthy too: One cup of chayote has just 25 calories, only 0.2g fat, 6g carbs, 1.1g protein, 2.2g sugar, and 2.2g fiber. However, a vast amount of the nutrients are in the peel-so be sure to keep it on while cooking and eating. It works well as a replacement for starchy vegetables for anyone looking to cut carbs or who is following a low-carb diet like keto or Atkins.

How do you buy it?

Chayote is available in grocery stores. However, if your produce section leaves something to be desired, you may have better luck finding it at a specialty store like Whole Foods or at a farmers’ market. Warm climates have a long growing season for chayote squash so it’s typically available year-round, but that may depend on the area of the country you live in. To pick a ripe chayote, look for one that’s firm to the touch, between light and dark green in color, and without any off-color soft spots (differing color is fine if the fruit is firm). (Related: Sweet and Savory Recipes Using Summer Produce)

How to Cook and Eat Chayote

You can eat all parts of the chayote (and probs should-remember the nutrients in that peel), which makes it versatile for cooking and eating. (If you remember the shrimp monologue from Forrest Gump-“you can pickle it, sauté it, grill it, bake it, roast it…”-the same goes for chayote.) Each method will bring out different flavors and textures. For example, grilling caramelizes the chayote due to its sugar content. It is low in sugar but still a fruit.

Eat it raw: Chef Saul Montiel from Cantina Rooftop in NYC uses it raw and julienned to add crunch to a salad finished with lime juice, spicy Mexican seasoning (Tajin), and olive oil.

Use it in soup: The mild flavor means that you can season it to suit any palette. Chayote can handle bold spices like chipotle, harissa, and curry. “My favorite way to use chayote is in a traditional soup that my mom served at her restaurant in Mexico: mole de olla,” says Chef Montiel. It’s made of chayote squash, zucchini, green beans, corn, potato, chambarete and aguja (steak) meat, submerged into a chilli broth, and seasoned with garlic, onion, and epazote (a Mexican herb). “The chayote balances the spiciness and adds a sweet taste to the short rib soup,” says Chef Montiel. (Sounds like it belongs on this list of awesome keto soups that are low-carb but flavorful.)

Roast it: One of the easiest ways to begin experimenting with chayote (or any new vegetable, TBH) is by roasting it. McWhorter recommends this simple roasted chayote recipe: 2 tablespoons oil of your choice + ground black pepper + 1 pound chopped chayote. Bake at 375°F for 15 to 20 minutes. Then add salt-but only after the chayote is cooked. Science lesson: Salt draws moisture out of plant cell walls through osmosis. “If you draw moisture out while a water-rich vegetable (or fruit) cooks, it leads to a dehydrated and burnt final product with poor texture, especially with summer squash and eggplant varieties,” says McWhorter. If you wait until after, you still get the salty taste-but don’t ruin the chayote in the process. This tip is going to change your roasting game forever. (Related: 9 Kinda Brilliant Roasted Vegetable Combinations)

  • By By Shannon Bauer

Growing Chayote

Then … Stand Back

I found the Mexican import to be a rapidly growing climber … forming a sturdy vine that crawled up and over anything near it and was soon covered with elegant, five-pointed, sandpapery leaves. Our two creepers were started on a trellis against the garage, and — when the vines reached the top — they spread across the roof (and helped keep the building cool). Fortunately, the plants didn’t take up any of our small and valuable garden space … however, we had oak trees near the garage and learned the hard way that — unless directed with ties and such — chayotes go right on up any vertical support available! (When harvest time arrived, we had to “make like squirrels” in order to pick the highest fruits.)

A vine will continue to grow all summer and may attain a length of 30 feet or more before it starts to blossom. The productive plant needs a thorough, deep watering at least once every week and — if the weather is hot and dry — should be mulched to help conserve moisture.

When the days begin to shorten noticeably (September in southern California, and August farther north), sprays of green blossoms appear … but they’re so nearly the color of the leaves that you may not even notice them. Then, sometime in October (when you’ve probably just about given up hope), the plant will suddenly be covered with green fruit … and will keep on producing until the earliest frost.

My first harvest taught me why chayote vines are typically hefty. The fruits are heavy… often weighing a pound or more apiece. And there are lots of them! In fact, a single plant may bear between 50 and 100 in a season, and it’s estimated that one hectare (2.47 acres) of Sechium edule will produce 120,000 fruits a year!

You can begin picking your crop at any stage. At one to two inches in diameter, young chayote make good pickles or relish. When they’re two-thirds grown, they can be served sliced, like cucumbers, into salads. Later still, the nearly ripe fruit will be delicious curried or stir-fried … or used to liven up soups or stews. My favorite recipe, however, is also simplest of all: Just boil the slices for 10 minutes … season them with salt, pepper and herbs … and serve them with butter.

After they’re fully mature (the skins will have become rather hard), you can boil or steam the “pears” and mash their “innards” like potatoes … cut them in half and bake them just as you would winter squash … or stuff the edible “bowls” with seasoned meat and cooked rice and then roast them in a medium oven (about 325 degrees Fahrenheit) until tender. I have even served chayote “candied yams” alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.

A Winter Feast

Our vines were still loaded with fruit when the first frost hit. By the following morning the plants’ luxuriant leaves were suddenly crumpled, and I thought it was the end of my first chayote crop. Not so! The remaining fruits hung in “cold storage” until I finally picked them. I found that they kept well (another definite advantage) when simply spread out on newspapers in the garage, and we were able to enjoy them until long after Christmas.

After the chayote had been harvested, I pulled down the vines and mulched the roots. (If your area’s winters are fairly cold, you should mulch heavily.) The next year, new shoots popped up through the insulative layer and started the whole cycle all over again!

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Maximino Martinez, author of the book Plantas Utiles de Mexico (Useful Plants of Mexico), says that after a vine is two years old, parts of the root can be harvested without killing the plant … since the belowground growth will then be very large and will have put out tubercles. If you cut some of these away, you should be able to garner even more food from your vines each year. The root is 20 percent high-quality starch, and is often used as a substitute for wheat products. (Chayote “potatoes” can also be peeled, boiled, steamed or baked.)

Besides All That

There are a number of more exotic uses for chayote, as well. In the West Indies, for example, the vine’s fibers are twined into strong ropes, and — in old-time Creole medicine — christophine herb tea was used as a curative for vascular diseases. (According to one botanist, “An infusion of leaves lowers blood pressure and is said to counteract arteriosclerosis with surprising results.”)

Now I don’t make rope very often, and I would surely hesitate to doctor a heart patient with chayote tea. But I have found that my two vines produce all the vegetable pears we can consume … with plenty leftover to give away to friends and neighbors. And now that we’ve gotten our chayote garden started, our whole family is looking forward to many years of good eating!

Looking like a yellow-green pear, tasting mildly sweet, and offering a crisp texture, the chayote is a one of a kind squash. Pronounced “chi-oh-tay”, this fruit is known by many names such as vegetable pear, christophine, chocho, and mirliton. It is a member of the vast Cucurbitaceae Family (cucumber family), which also includes cucumbers, watermelons, zucchinis, and pumpkins.

The chayote, (Sechium edule) originates from Mexico and Central America and its history of cultivation begins in pre-Columbian times. As a perennial, it is now grown in tropical areas all the way up to the plant hardiness zone 7. To grow in cooler climates, cultivate the plant in containers and move them inside and out according to temperature. However, container grown chayotes may not produce as much as their garden grown counterparts.

Another option is to start the plant indoors and replant outside when the weather is warm enough. However, this option requires you to replant each year. Allowing chayotes to receive 150 days of growing time, and 30 days of fruit production time after blooming, will allow for a bountiful crop of delightful squash.

Planting chayote outdoors can begin in late winter or early spring, as soon as all frost risks have passed in your area. When planting your crop, choose a location that receives sun for a good part of the day. However, don’t let the chayote become scorched or dried out by summer winds. Offering partial protection will increase the survivability of your plant. Since this is a vine plant, provide your chayote a sturdy trellis to climb and allow it to create a canopy. This will increase its fruit production and allow it to create some of its own protection from sun and wind.

For more on trellises click here: https://permaculturenews.org/2012/03/29/trellises-for-your-summer-food-crops/
The chayote needs to be planted as a whole fruit, due to the fact that the seed germinates within the fruit. You can usually find chayotes in your local supermarket or in many Latin markets. Look to purchase them in the fall and let them sit in cool place until late winter or early spring when you will then plant the whole thing. If you would like more than one chayote plant you will need to buy and plant multiple squash, as there is only one seed per fruit.

Cross-section of the chayote fruit.

To plant the chayote in your garden, dig a 5-6” hole and place the fruit in at a slanted positon (with the stem pointed up and at ground level). Place each planting 12” apart. Keep your plant’s soil moist and slightly acidic (pH 5-6).
As your plants grow, watch for insects and mildews that can harm your growing crop. Prevention of pests and disease is best. This can be accomplished by not allowing plants to stand in water and by adding plants to your garden layout that keep harmful insects away, yet invite predatory species in. These can include many herbs, marigolds, and yarrow. If you find you have mildew, remove damaged portions of plant and spray the remaining plant with a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda to every 1 quart of water.

Once you have grown and harvested your chayote crop it is time to enjoy it. While the fruit is the part of the plant that is most notably consumed, some also use the root, seeds, shoots, flowers, leaves, and stems for food and/or medicinal purposes.

The fruit and leaves of chayote are used in some areas as blends and teas to alleviate constipation and bloating. They are also used to help reduce inflammation, blood pressure, and treat kidney stones and arthrosclerosis. Due to the soft nature of the chayote’s flesh, some cultures use it as baby food.

If you would like to use the chayote at your next meal there are several options you can try. Simply peeling and chopping up the fruit makes it ready to toss into your favorite salad or salsa, no cooking required. However, if you do prefer to cook the chayote here is delicious soup recipe you can try:

Chayote Soup

Recipe adapted from modestalmond: Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
2 cups chicken stock or broth (preferably homemade)
1-2 tablespoons butter (preferably grass-fed*)
1 medium organic onion (chopped)
3 cloves organic garlic (smashed and chopped)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 chayotes (peeled and chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons organic fresh cilantro (finely chopped)

Directions:
In a large saucepan melt butter over medium heat
Add onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper
Cook until onion is soft and mixture is fragrant, stirring occasionally
Add squash, cilantro, and salt and pepper
Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
Slowly and carefully add in the chicken stock/broth
Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes
Carefully pour the mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. (Do this in 2-3 batches if needed)
Loosely cover the blender, but do not put the lid on tight. Allow heat to escape while blending or it could “explode” out of the blender
Start the blender on slow/low and incrementally increase speed
Pour into bowls and garnish with any extra sprigs of cilantro if desired
Serve and enjoy

*When making any recipe always aim to use organic and sustainable products. This will improve your health, as well as the health and wellbeing of the animals raised, and the environment we all live in. For some additional reading on these topics click here: https://permaculturenews.org/2016/06/30/permaculture-practices-incas/

Safety First

There are some things to be cautious of when working with chayotes in the kitchen. Chayotes can ooze a clear latex-like liquid that, for some, can create a tingling sensation on any skin areas it touches. The tingling sensation will abate and does not cause permanent damage, but can be uncomfortable. If you come into contact with the chayote liquid, wash your hands thoroughly. To help prevent contact, wear gloves when preparing chayote and rinse the chayote under running water once peeled. Also, some chayote may have prickly spines on the skin. Be careful of these. To remove them, scrub vigorously under running water with a textured sponge.

Enjoy the Distinctiveness of Chayote

The chayote, with abundant health benefits and the matchless taste that is compared to everything from cucumbers and zucchinis, to apples and almonds, is definitely a unique and wonderful fruit to try in your cooking endeavors. Its pear-like features, and beautiful winding vines, make it a garden novelty worth the space you offer it in your yard. So growing climate or supermarket permitting, I hope the chayote works its way into your growing space and kitchen table.

HealthBenefitstimes.com. Chayote – Sechium edule. https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/chayote/

Modestalmomd.2017. Allrecipes.com. Chayote Soup. https://allrecipes.com/recipe/156544/chayote-soup/

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