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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. incredible post!

    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.

            2. I love chayote! Growing up, my mother would slice it thinly, brown it a bit and add it to stir-fries. I never knew that was uncommon until friends saw it and had no idea what it was. It gives the stir fry a nice, satisfying crunch.

              1. Love the chayote but you seem to be missing the best part - the jewel in the crown. As advised to me by a Salvadoran friend - the best part of the chayote is the soft seed- when cooked. Simply delicious.

                1 Reply
                1. re: butterchicken2nan

                  I agree. The only thing is when mashing, you need to remove the area around the seed because it is fibrous like some sweet potatoes can be.

                  Ironically after eating chayote daily for a few weeks, I went out for lunch today and ordered soup, looked in the bowl ... ta dah ... chayote. I would have paid to see the look on my own face. I had to suppress a giggle.

                  Turns out it works well in soup as it holds its shape well.

                2. I've been surfing, looking for good advice that gives me confidence to get into that Chayote that I bought the other day. You did it, kiddo! I'm confident enough now. One mention: I read that the seed is edible. Some folks recommend to cut it out. I've read one person who prefers the seed so if someone is inclined to cut the seeds out perhaps they might offer the loose seeds to their S/O.

                  1. This is my post-chayote posting. It was delicious. I ate everything but the stem. I put a pat of butter on two saucers and melted them in the microwave, then dipped the cut face of the halved chayote in the butter and sprinkled on Cajun seasoning. 10 minutes in the microwave and I had myself a nice lunch. I had enough to share but no one was handy. This is a vegetable that was never on my mother's table but it makes a nice addition to the repertoire. It is solid enough to serve with meats and mild enough to serve with fish. Yummy!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jimokeys

                      Thanks for reporting back. That Cajun seasoning seems inspired. I tried some recipe way up that had mint and tomatoes ... well, if you see that one, skip it ... the ingrediants just didn't meld and the mint didn't add a thing to the chayote.

                      I'm really liking chayote is soup ... it is sort of a filler veggie, bulking up the soup without overtaking the flavor.

                      Will definately try that cajun spice recipe and other spices ... I have a lot of chile powder I've been wanting to use up.

                      I like this veggie that is sort of mid-way between summer & winter squash. Be sure to try it raw some time ... like a cucumber in salad ... and try munching on the seed.

                      The seed is best raw, IMO. If you use it in the cooked product, remove the fibrous part that surrounds it because it is a little too fibrous when cooked.

                    2. Here's what I do with chayote--we see tons of it here in Mexico.

                      *Chayote Estilo Cristina*

                      1/4 Cup olive oil
                      2 medium chayotes, cut in quarters and sliced in 1/2" sections
                      2 large cloves garlic, minced
                      1 or more chile serrano, to taste, minced
                      4 or 5 roma tomatoes, coarsely diced
                      1 large white onion, diced about 1/2"
                      1 large bay leaf
                      1/4 tsp Mexican oregano, crumbled
                      2 tsp tomato bouillon powder (Knorr Suiza)
                      water
                      _____________________________________

                      In a heavy pan, heat olive oil to medium hot. Add garlic, chiles, and onion. Sauté till onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and allow to simmer until they begin to give up their juices. Add chayotes (including the tender white seeds) and seasonings, including the tomato bouillon. Add small amount of water to prevent sticking.

                      Simmer covered until the chayote is tender. Uncover and allow excess liquid to simmer away. Taste and correct seasonings.

                      The tomato bouillon is salty; you probably will not need additional salt.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: cristina

                        That sounds great. Chayote season is over in my backyard. The frost killed it ... what do you know, the lost lemon tree did produce a few lemons under the chayote leaves.

                        Talk about a persistant veggie. I was trying various methods and seeing how long they lasted. In the fridge it didn't seem to matter if they were in a open plastic bag or just in the veggie bin. After almost a month, I gave up and just ate them.

                        The chayote I left on the counter sort of shriveled a tiny bit ... then sprouted two healthy leaves ... yep ... a month without water & soil and this veggie was still growing ... I tossed it ... I was afraid if I left it one morning I'd wake up to find the kitchen overtaken by the chayote and the cat missing.

                        I'm sure I will be battling it next summer in the backyard though I plan to be a little more vigilant setting up a chayote watch so it doesn't get out of control again.

                        Thanks for the recipe. I'm glad the plant did go beserk in the backyard, otherwise I would probably never have tried it.

                      2. Thanks - I see chayote in the supermarket all the time, but I never knew what to do with it.

                        Has anyone tried roasting?

                        1. Years ago, my Dad had a very abundant chayote vine in his garden (the thorny kind -- smooth ones always look sickly to me!). Due to his taste in food, they were always treated in my house more like potatoes than squash, so they were mostly pan-fried in butter, occasionally baked or mashed.

                          I had told a co-worker, from Hawaii, about them and eventually brought her a few. She opened the bag, took one look, and said "Pipinola! I love pipinola and haven't had any since I left the islands!" Her family eventually started their own vine from one of the seeds.

                          I always suggest to my Dad that he start growing them again, but I think he was a little overwhelmed by the sheer numbers that are produced by a single vine (he is, however, interested in taking a crack at bitter melon).

                          1. Two ways that I've had fabulous chayote:

                            1) A thin slice or two on a chicken salad or tuna salad sandwich. The crunch acts like an apple -- same freshness too -- without all the sweetness.

                            2) As the featured veggie in any number of South Indian dishes. It holds its shape well and takes to the aggressive seasoning beautifully while still offering its own flavor. Yum!

                            Do be forewarned though that the kind you get in the supermarkets (at least in the New England area) do coat your hands in "sap" -- it makes a film on your skin that's difficult to remove without stiff scrubbing. Of course, it doesn't really do any harm and will wear off naturally in a day or so. ;)

                            1. I just saw them in the store today and bought one on a whim. Your post is a godsend. And now to play with new food!

                              1. Thank you for sharing all that information. I had a chayote growing but for some reason it just died. My neighbor gave it to me to plant so I could make pickles with them. I have one saved from the last crop that is sprouting so I'm inspired to replant and take care of this one. We have also enjoyed it in soups and simmered dishes. Great post.