chayote

chayote

[chahy-oh-tee]

Chayote (Sechium edule)

Tendril-bearing perennial vine (Sechium edule) of the gourd family, native to the New World tropics, where it is widely cultivated for its edible fruits. Chayote also is grown as an annual plant in temperate climates. The fast-growing vine bears small, white flowers and green or white pear-shaped fruits with furrows. Each fruit contains one seed. The fruits are eaten cooked or raw, and the young root tubers are prepared like potatoes.

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The chayote (Sechium edule), also known as sayote, tayota, choko, chocho, chow-chow, christophine or merliton, is an edible plant that belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae along with melons, cucumbers and squash.

The plant has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruit. The vine is grown on the ground or more commonly on trellises.

Costa Rica is a major exporter of Chayotes world-wide. Costa Rican chayotes can be purchased in the European Union, the United States and other places in the world. Chayote is a very important ingredient in the Mexican diet. Veracruz state is the most important Chayote growing area of the whole country, and is also a major exporter of this product, mainly to the United States.

Taxonomy

The plant was first recorded by modern botanists in P.Browne's 1756 work. In 1763 it was classified by Jacquin as Sicyos edulus and by Adanson as Chocho edulus. Swartz included it in 1800 in its current genus Sechium.

Description

In the most common variety, the fruit is roughly pear or apple shaped, somewhat flattened and with coarse wrinkles, ranging from 10 to 20 cm in length. It has a thin green skin fused with the white flesh, and a single large flattened pip. The flesh has a fairly bland taste, and a texture described as a cross between a potato and a cucumber. Although generally discarded, the seed has a nutty flavour and may be eaten as part of the fruit.

Culinary and medicinal uses

Although most people are familiar only with the fruit, the root, stem, seeds, and leaves are all edible.

The fruit does not need to be peeled and can be eaten raw in salads. It can also be boiled, stuffed, mashed, baked, fried, or pickled. Both the fruit and the seed are rich in amino acids and vitamin C.

The tuberous part of the root is starchy and is both eaten by humans and used as cattle fodder.

The leaves and fruit have diuretic, cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory properties, and a tea made from the leaves has been used in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and hypertension, and to dissolve kidney stones.

In Taiwan, chayotes are widely planted for their shoots, known as lóng xü cài (龍鬚菜, literally "dragon-whisker vegetable"). Along with the young leaves, the shoot is a commonly consumed vegetable in the region.

Myths

  • In Australia, where it is called choko, a persistent rumour has existed that that McDonalds Apple Pies were made of chokos, not apples. This eventually led them to emphasise the fact that real apples are used in their pies. This legend was based on an earlier belief that tinned pears were often disguised chokos.
  • Due to its cell-regenerative properties, it is believed as a contemporary legend that this fruit caused the mummification of people from Colombian town of San Bernardo who extensively consumed it. The very well preserved skin and flesh can be seen in the mummies today.

Alternative names

Chayote (pronounced [tʃa'jɔte], roughly "cha-YO-teh"), is the Spanish name of the plant, from Nahuatl hitzayotli (pronounced [itsajotli] "eetsa-yo-tlee"). It is used in many parts of Spanish-speaking Latin America and in the US. World-wide, it is known by many other names:

Africa

Americas

Asia

Europe

Oceania

Other places

  • English-speaking countries: chouchou, chocho, cho-cho, mango squash, vegetable pear

See also

External links

References

  • Rafael Lira Saade. 1996. Chayote Sechium edule (Jacq.) Sw. Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 8. Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Gatersleben/International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy. ISBN 92-9043-298-5 available in pdf format

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