Tag Archive for mirliton

Growing Chayote in Virginia

Growing what?

chayote-shoot-2007-08-21-0301

You know… “chayote” (sometimes spelled “chayotte”), also known as chouchou, chocko, christophine, mirliton, vegetable pear. You don’t know? Time for today’s lesson, then: Sechium edule, a member of the cucurbitacea family (or if you prefer a cousin of squashes and cucumber), originates from Mexico and Central America and was already cultivated there when the Spaniards arrived. The word chayote comes to us from a Spanish word derived from the word “hitzayotli” in the Nahuatl language where it designates both the plant and the fruit.

The plant is viviparous, as was discussed in the post on starting chayote, meaning you need a fruit to start the plant: the smooth large whitish seed (perfectly edible and considered a delicacy by the chayote connoisseur) must germinate inside the fruit.

Chayote is perennial in its native climate and in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world where it was exported and made itself at home (like here)- which is why you find it on the menus of cuisines as diverse as Vietnamese, Australian, Reunionese, Louisianan, Nigerian etc. In the mid-Atlantic area, it will be killed by a hard frost, although it will stand to a light one: in my garden it is killed by the same type of frost that kills my dahlia tops (another garden denizen that hails from Central America). If a plant were several years old it would have had a chance to form tuber-like roots, and like dahlias, would send new shoots up when more clement weather arrives. In the Northern Piedmont, though – as in the entire mid-Atlantic area – the winters are too harsh and the plant must be considered an annual. Read more

Starting Chayote in Virginia

A while ago, I posted a recipe for chayote shoots, this unusual green that’s easy to grow and that is wonderfully silky in stir-fry and braised dishes. It makes good quiches too – a racy alternative to spinach or Swiss chard. You have probably seen the fruit in the exotic section of the supermarket. In the US it’s imported more than likely from Mexico. Green and vaguely pear shaped and sized, it’s in the squash family and looks like this:

chayote-on-plate

There are more types of chayote around, some weight close to 2 pound and some are thorny with a more vigorous taste and a fleshier texture. But the smooth green smallish chayote is all that I have ever seen around here be at the supermarket or in Hispanic markets. You’ll have to travel to see and eat the other kind.

I ahve also never seen the greens for sale here, although they are really good – in many way a lot tastier than the mild (but versatile fruit). While I am trying to get fruit from my vines, I am under no illusion that’s practically a lost cause in the Virginia Northern Piedmont. Practically, mind you, which means I am still trying. It’s however a breeze (at least compared to other veggies) to grow chayote successfully as a leaf (and stem) vegetable. Read more