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Chayote chronicles part 1 – raw, fried, boiled, microwaved ... wonderful and so pretty

A chayote plant took over the back yard, so I’m experimenting with this squash-like vegetable I never tried before this week.

It is so good and sweet and pretty. I also think I have discovered the baby choyote which has a great crunchy crispness like a good pickle.

Here are my first close encounters of a choyote kind.

- how to pronounce (rhymes with coyote ... chy-O-tay)
- raw
- microwaved
- boiled
- fried
- selecting
- storing
- nutritional value

RAW

The cooked taste is different from raw. Uncooked it tastes like a crisp cucumber without the seeds or bitterness, just the good part.

Someone compared it to a water chestnut. I don’t agree with that taste-wise, but the crunch is similar.

Cucumber is the best analogy raw. That pretty light green color that a cucumber has just under the skin runs all though the vegetable. While the skin is edible, you don’t want to eat it any more than you would a cucumber.

There’s a large, soft seed in the center that is like a white blanched almond. Since these WERE literally taking over the yard, I picked them at all stages from one inch babies to one foot giants. The babies are great because they are crunchier and don’t have the seed developed yet.

One web mention said to wear rubber gloves or risk getting sap on your fingers ... rubbish ... no such thing. It has the feel of a cucumber. Do you wear rubber gloves to peal a cucumber?

MICROWAVED

This is the easiest and the way I’ll go. Half or quarter the chayote leaving the skin on. These are not easy to cut into, almost like winter squash.

Put a little water in the bowl ... 1/4 cup or less. Cover and microwave on high 10 minutes or until fork tender. Think cooked spaghetti squash texture. Remove seed, scoop out flesh and mash. Butter, salt and pepper can be added, but this was so sweet and wonderful that I ate it plain except for a few small bites where butter was added.

The taste is a mixture of summer squash, spaghetti squash, winter squash and a hint of sweet corn. The beautiful light green color makes it so pretty on the dish ... the color of the buds of the first spring leaves. The taste is closest to summer squash, not as watery with a lighter texture than winter squash. Someone mentioned turnip, and I can see that, but not so ... turnip-y ... with all the good part of that taste and none of the bad.

BOILED

Cut the same as when microwaving. Cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes or until fork tender. Exactly the same results as the microwaved version.

FRIED

I just went simple ... 1/4 inch thick slices and fried in butter until about the texture of a fried apple. It was very good with the good turnip qualities dominating. Next time I’ll go with some more elaborate frying ... olive oil ... onions are suggested a lot. There’s one recipe out there with fresh mint and tomatoes that is sounding good.

SELECTING

Well, mine were garden fresh. However, the medium ... about the size of a woman’s fist ... were the best ... 4 to 6 inches long and about 4 ounces.

Actually the babies were the best, but those are not available in markets.

The huge chayote was a little starchier and lost a little sweetness, but they were still fine.

Pick chayote that is like an unripe avocado. They should be hard and not soft and should be heavy for their size The skin should be unblemished. They wrinkle supposedly as the get older, with a shriveled type of look to them and get dry and tough ... or so I read.

There are two types that supposedly taste identical: Smooth skin and prickly. Markets will sell the former, the latter grew wild in my back yard ... had to get rid of some of it ... it was smothering the lilac and peach trees and had started to climb on the roof. When someone said this was an aggressive plant that was an understatement. But it looks so pretty as it takes over. There is a white variety too, but it seems like that would take away the advantage of the beautiful color.

STORING

Well, the advice is to put in the fridge in a plastic bag. I did that with some and left some on the counter. Reports are that they will last wrapped in the fridge from anywhere from a week to a month and under 50 degrees is not good for them. However, I read that on a web site that said chayote were bland and should be aggressively seasoned, so the reliability of that is questionable.

Supposedly cut chayote will last 3 – 5 days in a covered plastic container.

Will report back

To Freeze, the advice is to cut into 1⁄2 inch slices, blanch in water, cool immediately, drain and freeze. Yeah.

I just froze some of the mashed choyote. It was a little more watery heated in a microwave, more like applesauce ... pretty green applesauce ... and tasted fine. For my purposes this is great. When I get hungry, something hot fills me up. A 40 calorie cup of chayote sounds like it will do it for me.

NUTRITIONAL VALUE

Looowww calorie (per 1/2 cup: raw 12, cooked 20) and no caffeine. Ok, that last was funny to me as this link has info about every single nutritional value including caffeine (scroll to bottom).
http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts-B0...

At a not so detailed level ... they are a good source of potassium and fiber. They have very little fat or sodium and are cholesterol-free. Chayote contains known anti-inflammatory nutrients, including Folate, Vitamin C and Zinc.

This link which also has some other good info and recipes (butter-steamed choyote) says “ It also yields 22.4 mg calcium, 165 mg potassium, 23 mg phosphorus, 10 mg vitamin C, 73.9 IU vitamin A and 122 mcg folate”
http://sarasota.extension.ufl.edu/FCS...

NEXT STEPS:

More cooking intensive things: Soups, casseroles, stuffed, maybe pickled. Any ideas would be enthusiastically tried.

I did try mixing with mayo like potato salad, but didn’t like that so much. It does match nicely with cinnamon so I’m looking forward to a sweet stuffed version with cinnamon, raisins, cream and eggs. For savory there are lots of recipes that match it with garlic and onions.

Prickly chayotes gone wild
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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    1. Wonderful post, RW!

      I have seen two situations where proud gardeners were growing choyote crops as enthusiastic vines climbing up on their houses. One was in Ventura, and the other in Mill Valley. In both situations, their crop was HUGE.

      How long is the season?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sharuf

        I think in the SF area, it might last until the first frost. Last year I didn't really notice this other than my S/O bringing in two of the fruit.

        I read one guy had to replace his roof when these took over. The leaves have a smothering effect and stuff under them seems to rot. I'm sorry though that with the first 1/4 of the vines I got rid of that I didn't save more of the babies which taste the best ... but I had two shopping bags full as it was.

        Cooking more up last night to freeze, my advice is to scoop out the area just around the seed. That seems to be fibrous, especially in the bigger chayote.

        At this point I might call some of those Urban Forage groups to see if they are interested. I hate to waste food ... otherwise, if you see someone selling chayote out of the back of their car in the the SF area ... that will probably be me.

      2. You probably know that this is the same vegetable that is called mirliton in Louisiana (although I never saw the prickly kind there), where cooks often serve it with a bread crumb stuffing including seafood or meat. You can find many recipes if you look online. A sample:

        http://www.crabapplelane.net/ftb_blog...

        http://members.aol.com/amprsnd/chayot...

        http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

        Sarah C

        1 Reply
        1. re: kittyfood

          The new issue of Savuer has a recipe for a mirliton and shrimp casserole-style bake.

        2. Thanks for this very interesting post. I'm going to try to find chayote in my market-you make me want to taste it!

          1 Reply
          1. re: jackie de

            If you cook it, try at least one piece raw. It was hard to find chayote info in one place. Most references say anything you use squash or cucumbers for, you can use chayote. That is and isn't true because of the slightly firmer texture.

            Anyway, enjoy your chayote and hope you'll report back. I'm almost curious to buy one from the store. I wonder if mine taste so good because of being just picked.

          2. I made a chayote-based mole last year that I was going to try to replicate this season. I hope I can remember the details. Here's what I think I used:
            Boiled chayote, chunked
            boiled tomatillos
            several cloves garlic
            1-3 chiles serranos
            sesame seeds
            cilantro (or did I use parsley? or both?) -- lots
            good-quality chicken stock

            I might be forgetting something, but blended of all of these together, then chicken and more chayote chunks in it. Served with good corn tortillas and white rice cooked with oil and green chiles. It was outstanding, and very healthy. My husband agreed that the blended chayote made a unique and delicious base for a sauce.

            1 Reply
            1. re: maestra

              Great idea and impressive and creative. I haven't seen anything like this on the web. I'll give this a try. I'll bet it looked beautiful too.