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Cooking and Serving Chayote: Kitchen Basics

Chayote halved Young and tender chayote can be served finely sliced raw in salads, or it can be served puréed, or diced in soups or stews, or sautéed, steamed, boiled, stir-fried, deep-fried, and baked.

Chayote has a mild cucumber- to apple-like flavor and crunch and can be prepared just as you would a summer squash.

The mild flavor of chayote allows it to be served alone with just butter or cream or to be spiced up with assertive seasonings such as lime juice, cinnamon, or nutmeg. Add sugar or brown sugar and chayote can be served as a dessert.

How to Choose Chayote

  • Select chayote that is small, firm—but not too hard–and unblemished. Very hard-skinned chayote can be fibrous. Smaller chayote will be tender.
  • Avoid fruits that are sticky or discolored.
Chayote slices
Preparing chayote slices

How to Prep Chayote for Cooking

  • The skin of chayote can be eaten if it is tender. Test it before you cook it. The furrowed skin of mature chayote can be covered with small hair-like spines and should be peeled before eating or cooking.
  • The flesh of the chayote will remain firm if the skin is left on during cooking. You can peel chayote before or after cooking, but if you peel it before it may secrete a sticky substance that might irritate your skin. This substance disappears during cooking.
  • To peel chayote before cooking, wear gloves or oil your hands or peel under running water.
  • Chayote is not fully ripe until it starts to germinate, then a sprout will emerge from the stone and grow out through the stem end. Overripe chayote is used in Creole-style dishes.
  • If chayote over-ripens, scoop out the flesh, remove the seed, mash the flesh with cheese or meat and re-stuff it for baking.

How to Store Chayote

  • Chayote will keep in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for four weeks or so. Lightly wrap it in a paper towel before placing it in the plastic bag.

Chayote Serving Suggestions

  • Chayote can be served as you would summer squash raw or cooked. Chayote can replace summer squash in most recipes.
  • Serve it young, tender, and raw added to salads. Peel, core, finely slice and serve with a light vinaigrette.
  • Cut raw into julienne strips and add to coleslaw-type salad.
  • Add sugar or lime juice, cinnamon, nutmeg to serve as a dessert.
Chayote sliced
Chayote sliced

Chayote Cooking Suggestions

  • Cook chayote like you would cucumber or zucchini. Serve it puréed in cream, steamed and sliced in a light salad, or sautéed with butter and herbs to appreciate its delicacy.
  • Serve simply cooked still slightly crisp. Allow 10 to 15 minutes for boiling or steaming.
  • Add to soups, stews, stir-fries, marinades, pickles, and chutneys. Remove the outer skin to sauté or deep-fry.
  • Blend with seafood or ham in soup, stir-fry, casserole, or fried.
  • Cook topped with a sauce au gratin.
  • Split, stuff, and bake like acorn squash. The empty skin can be partially cooked before re-stuffing. Stuff with fillings such as seafood, ham, pork, ginger, and scallions.
  • Half and stuff with raisins, nuts, brown sugar, eggs.
  • Young chayote shoots can be eaten like asparagus.
  • The chayote seed can be cooked and has a taste somewhere between lima bean and almond.

Chayote Flavor Partner

  • Chayote can be partnered with chicken, chiles, cilantro, corn, ham, lime, onions, seafood, sweet peppers, and tomatoes.

Chayote Nutrition

  • Chayote is a good source of potassium and contains vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin B, copper and magnesium.
  • Chayote is low in calories, about 40 per cup.
Chayote on vines
Chayote near harvest

Get to Know Chayote

  • Chayote—pronounced chi-OH-tay—got its start in the tropics and semi-tropics of Central America but grows in temperate regions where the weather remains mild and warm in the fall and winter.
  • Chayote is an annual gourd-like vegetable that grows on a vine to about the size and shape of a pear–3 to 8 inches (7.5-20 cm) long. On average the chayote weighs about half a pound (225g). Its skin can vary in color from yellowish-white to pale green to dark green.
  • The flesh of the chayote is firm, crisp, and whitish. Each fruit contains a soft stone that is 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm) long. Both the skin and stone of the chayote can be eaten when cooked.
  • The flowers and tuberous roots of the chayote can be eaten as well.
  • Chayote is native to Mexico and Central America, but it now grows in the West Indies, South and Central America, India, North Africa, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Australia. In the United States, chayote is grown in California, Florida, and Louisiana where it is known as mirliton.
  • In France, chayote is known as christophene; in Great Britain as custard marrow; in Brazil and West Africa as chocho; and in Vietnam as xuxu.
  • Chayote was originally cultivated by the Mayans and Aztecs. Its name is derived from chayot—the Nahuatl word for vegetable. Nahuatl was the language of the Aztecs.

The botanical name for chayote is Sechium edule.

Also of interest:

How to Grow Chayote

 

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14 Comments

  1. Thanks for this great article! I really enjoyed reading it and finding out all this info I didn’t know! I am planting 2 this year! I didn’t know the seed could be eaten! YUM OUT!
    THX!
    Laura

  2. Thanks for the information about chayote squash. I bought one today at the grocery store and the clerk asked me how to prepare it. I replied “I don’t know. I’m going home to look it up online.”
    “You’re brave.” she replied.
    This looks like a great veggie.

    • Chayote is a favorite in the Caribbean. Add it raw and cubed to salads with a bit of vinaigrette. You can use it to replace summer squash in most recipes.

  3. Great info. My chiropractor gives to me from her home garden and said is good for blood. Needed to know whether to peel before or after. I now know can be eaten raw, too. Very commonly in Hawai’ian gardens and I think Filipino foods also! Going to use in a frittata! Yum!! <3

    • You can eat the skin if the chayote fruit is young and tender–the fruit can be thinly sliced into a salad without peeling. Otherwise, peel the chayote under cold running water to avoid skin irritation. Hold the chayote firm in one hand then slice the skin off with a vegetable peeler turning the chayote while peeling–much like you would peel a potato.

  4. One of your writers wrote awhile back, said they were in Portland OR., and could not grow Chayote there. I know of people in Salem who grow them with quite good success. I have some here from their last summers crop..

    • Thanks for letting us know about chayote success in Oregon. A key to growing chayote is finding a growing spot that can stay warm through the 100 plus days of growing that chayote requires. In cooler or short growing season regions it is important to find a spot near a building or wall that can soak up solar heat through the day and radiate back out to plants during the night.

    • Treat chayote as you would a zucchini or other summer squash. After harvest, keep it at 50 to 60F on the counter or wrap it in a paper towel and plastic it a plastic bag to store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. It is best used fresh as quickly as possible after harvest. If the chayote has been sitting out for several days and the temperature is warm it will soften and begin to rot.

  5. Hello,
    I am in Portland Oregon and fell in love with it when given some by a co-gardener!

    The ones he grows and I plan to myself this year are quite prickly. I was told the prickly variety has more flavor, is this true? What are the differences between the smooth vs prickly?

    Thank you

    How early or soil temp is ok to plant? He says I can now, March 3 (he’s already planted his.

    • Plant chayote when the soil temperature is 65F or warmer. You can use a soil thermometer to check the temperature. Chayote has a flavor reminiscent of cucumber; some describe that flavor as “sweet”. Some describe the flavor of prickly chayote as less sweet or slightly bitter, but that may be simply a matter of taste. Prickly chayote is sometimes described as “wild” chayote–but it is in cultivation just as the green smooth and white smooth chayote varieties.

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