Now and then, something pops up in horticultural magazines about chayote, Sechium edule.
Last winter, this relative of the cucumber was offered at such a reasonable price that many people who had never used it bought it. Naturally, this resulted in a crop of questions.
Gardeners in temperate climates wanted to know how to grow it, and plantsmen in the colder regions asked whether this strange offering was a root, bud, or seed pod.
Watch For The Sprout
In February, toward the end of the chayote season, some buyers noticed that a green protrusion emerged from the wider puckered end of the green vine fruit and that sprouts developed from this thick tongue.
This indicates that it is time to grow the “vegetable pear,” as when it is on the parent vine, it drops after it has sprouted and lands on the heavy end, partly covered with moist earth or leaves.
It then sends out roots from below the shoots and develops into a separate plant. Some southern California and Florida seedsmen sell the chayote seed pod at this stage.
If you live where chayote will not grow outdoors, as it cannot stand frosts, stand the sprouted end on moist flannel or peat, and watch the roots grow. Or start it in a pot, and watch the vine develop. Every midge of vegetables is used to feed the young plant.
In my summer-cool foggy climate, chayote does not bear until the second season, and then cold winds may wreck the tiny fruits.
When sown in southern California in January, it bloomed for me the following August, and a month later, the seed pod was ready for the table.
My pet plant, which is in a friend’s garden, grows over a dead pear tree that covers like a canopy.
The vine often grows 50′ feet a season, and like the hop, it dies back each year.
It forms an enormous tuberous root, and as it is a great soil robber, it requires rich loam and plenty of water. Shelter is also needed.
It is such a prodigious producer that one plant will supply a large family with enough to give away. I found that chayote shoots, their young branches, and roots were all good to eat in Mexico.
When picked before the appearance of the tongue, chayote fruit will keep for weeks in a cool place. I have used the small, young fruits cut up in a salad.
The older ones are well-creamed, baked like squash, and served with grated cheese and bread crumbs or as fritters. In all cases, the flavor is bland and needs pepping up with condiments.
44659 by Lester Rowntree