Chayote is a warm-season, tender perennial. Plant the whole fruit 3 to 4 weeks after the last average frost date in spring when the weather has warmed. Chayote grows best where summer temperatures are very warm to hot, in tropical or subtropical regions. Chayote requires 120 to 150 frost-free days to reach harvest.
Description. Chayote is a vine that produces a pale green to white, flattened-pear-shaped fruit that tastes like a nutty-flavored squash. Vine-like stems grow from a tuberous root and can reach up to 50 feet (15.2m) long. Leaves are hairy and resemble maple-leaves; male and female flowers are borne on the same vine. Young shoots, the fruit, and mature tubers are edible.
Yield. Plant 1 chayote vine per household of 4 persons.
Site. Plant chayote in full sun; chayote will grow in partial shade but the yield will be reduced. Grow chayote in loose, well-drained but moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter. Chayote prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
Planting time. Plant chayote 3 to 4 weeks after the last average frost date in spring when the soil temperature has reached at least 65°F (18°C). Chayote grows best where summer temperatures are warm to hot, in tropical or subtropical regions such as Florida, the Gulf Coast, and California. Chayote requires 120 to 150 frost-free warm days to reach harvest. In short-summer regions, grow chayote in a container so that it can be brought indoors when the temperatures cool.
Planting and spacing. Set a whole chayote fruit about 4 to 6 inches (10-15cm)deep, fat end down, and at an angle so that the stem end is just level with the soil surface. Sow seeds or fruits 10 feet apart. Chayote is a vigorous climber; set a sturdy trellis or support in place at planting. Do not allow maturing fruit to come in contact with the soil; it will spoil and germinate while still attached to the vine.
Companion plants. Pumpkin, peppers, squash, corn. Do not grow chayote with celery, mint, or snap beans.
Container growing. Chayote can be grown in a container, but the yield will not be significant. Grow chayote in a container about 24 inches deep. Chayote is a vigorous climber and a trellis or support should be set in the container at planting time.
Water and feeding. Give chayote even, regular water; do not let the soil dry out. Add aged compost to the planting bed before planting. Side dress chayote with compost tea every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season. Side dress chayote with aged compost at midseason.
Care. Put a trellis or stake supports in place at planting time. In cold-winter regions, protect chayote with thick mulch 10 to 15 inches (25-38cm) thick before the first freeze.
Pests. Aphids may attack chayote vines. Hand-pick or hose them off with a strong blast of water.
Diseases. Chayote has no serious disease problems.
Harvesting and Storing Chayote
Harvest. Chayote will be ready for harvest when the fruit is tender and about 4 to 6 inches (10-15cm) in diameter, usually 120 to 150 warm, frost-free days after planting. Cut chayote from the vine with a knife or hand-pruner. Harvest chayote before the flesh gets hard.
Storing and preserving. Chayote will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Diced chayote can be frozen or canned for up to 1 year.
Chayote Varieties to Grow
Plant the whole seed or whole vegetable of any variety available. Check with the area cooperative extension or nearby nursery for regional availability.
Common name. Chayote, chocho, chuchu, sou-sou, vegetable pear, one-seeded cucumber
Botanical name. Sechium edule
Origin. Central America