The chayote (Sechium edule), also known as christophene, vegetable pear, mirliton, choko(in Australia and New Zealand), starprecianté, citrayota, citrayote (Ecuador and Colombia),chuchu (Brazil), chow chow (India), cho cho (Jamaica), Sayote (Philippines) ,güisquil(Guatemala, El Salvador), or pear squash, iskus (Nepal) is an edible plant that belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae along with melons, cucumbers and squash.
Chayote is originally native to Mesoamerica, but has been introduced as a crop worldwide. The main growing regions are Costa Rica and Veracruz, Mexico. Costa Rican chayotes are predominantly exported to the European Union whereasVeracruz is the main exporter of chayotes to the United States.
The word “chayote” is a Spanish derivative of the Nahuatl word chayohtli. Chayote was one of the many foods introduced to Europe by early explorers, who brought back a wide assortment of botanical samples. The Age of Conquest also spread the plant south from Mexico, ultimately causing it to be integrated into the cuisine of many other Latin American nations.
The chayote fruit is used in both raw and cooked forms. When cooked, chayote is usually handled like summer squash, it is generally lightly cooked to retain the crisp flavor. Raw chayote may be added to salads or salsas, and it is often marinated with lemon or lime juice. It can also be eaten straight, although the bland flavour makes this a dubious endeavor. Whether raw or cooked, chayote is a good source of amino acids and vitamin C.
Although most people are familiar only with the fruit as edible, the root, stem, seeds, and leaves are as well. The tubers of the plant are eaten like potatoes and other root vegetables while the shoots and leaves are often consumed in salads and stir fries, especially in Asia. Like other members of the gourd family such as cucumbers, melons, and squash, chayote has a sprawling habit, and it should only be planted if there is plenty of room in the garden. The roots are also highly susceptible to rot, especially in containers, and the plant in general is finicky to grow. However, in Australia and New Zealand it is an easily grown yard garden plant, set on a chicken wire support or strung against a fence.