Making Friends with the Chayote

Posted in February-March, 2015 byEast Capers Periodico, issue 70 p. 15
Republished with permission of East Capers Periodico.

By: Renée Lagloire and Denise Elliott
Buen Provecho Baja

Chayote is your friend! When Hurricane Odile hit the East Cape area and few fresh vegetables were available for purchase, there it was… the chayote, green, hard to the touch, and shaped like a pear. It finds its way into most Mexican kitchens, and is therefore almost always available in small and large grocery stores. Chayote is inexpensive, readily available, and can be very tasty! If you don’t know it, you might want to become acquainted!

It is thought that chayote is native to Central America and Mexico. It was a staple in ancient Mexico, where it was first domesticated. In the Aztecs’ Nahuatl language, it was called chayotl, but it was known thousands of years before among the Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula where its fruit, its tendrils, flowers and roots were part of the cuisine.

Chayote is now grown all over Latin America, and worldwide under various names, among others, vegetable pear, chocho, mirliton, or christophine. A perennial vine, chayote (Sechium edule) is in the gourd family, but is unusual in that it has a single, edible seed which is considered the most delicious part of the vegetable. Chayote is simple to grow, simply bury a whole chayote halfway in the ground horizontally near a fence where it can climb, and water regularly. You will soon have a vigorous tall vine that will produce numerous chayote.

While the taste of chayote is relatively neutral, its ability to soak in added flavors makes it a welcome addition to any meal. Only the larger chayotes need to be peeled to be eaten. It is cubed or sliced, depending on its use. It should be treated much like you would a zucchini or other squash, but it needs to cook longer. Chayote is wonderful on the grill with a mojo de ajo, or cubed in stews and stir-fries, but you might make lifelong friends with it by trying this simple grilled chayote recipe from one of our Buen Provecho Mexican cooking and culture classes.

 

Lime and Herb Grilled Chayote -

Chayote a la Plancha con Limon y Hierbas

4 chayotes

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Juice of 2 limes

2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

(Other herbs of choice if desired)

Salt and pepper

1. Make sure the grill is turned on.

2. If the chayotes are large and the skin is tough or spikey, peel them. Otherwise, no need to peel. Do not remove the seed, it is considered a delicacy!

3. Slice the chayotes about 1⁄4 inch thick. Place in a shallow bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients.

4. Grill the marinated chayote slices until very tender and serve. Make sure they are cooked until they are soft and darkly golden.

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