From the Aztec word 'Chayotli', chayotes are native to southern Mexico and central America. Grown primarily for their odd pear shaped fruits, they were an important cultivated vegetable in that region before Columbus arrived. Chayote is a perennial member of the cucumber or pumpkin family with a strong climbing habit.
It is a true multi-purpose crop with edible fruit, edible leaves and edible tuberous roots. A chayote plant in the yard can provide a family in the tropics with fruit for up to six years, greens every week and tubers that are boiled like potatoes after two years. They can be easily trained over any type of trellis and can create appealing shaded spaces and privacy in crowded neighborhoods.
- Edible tuberous roots are roughly 20% carbohydrates. They are boiled, roasted and sometimes candied or used as a source of starch.
- Can tolerate some shade
- Produces edible leaves year-round
Good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and calcium
- Susceptible to root knot nematodes
- Little resistance to arid weather or drought, especially for young plants
- Fruits can cause skin irritations in some sensitive people
- Very sensitive to frost
- Needs trellis support
- Susceptible to powdery mildew
- Chayote, and related perennial members of the cucumber family, such as ivy gourd (Coccinia grandis), can be invasive and choke out small trees and shrubs if not pruned back regulary.
- Can be propagated by planting whole fruit with the large end slanting down, or by stem cuttings from young shoots. Seed dies if taken out of fruit.
- Sometimes grown in multi-story systems that include coconut, banana, and ginger, as well as chayote.
- In the Philippines, alnus trees are used as living fenceposts where a network of wires are attached and chayote is allowed to climb over the wires which are suspended 1.5-2.0 m high from the ground.
- Rejuvenated by cutting back the old vines to a height of two feet (1/2 meter)
- Prefers soil pH from 5.5 6.5
- Tendrils should be removed when preparing greens as they are unpleasantly fibrous.
- Several tropical and sub-tropical members of the cucurbit family have edible leaves. Some, such as the fluted pumpkin in Africa, are cultivated for their protein and oil rich seeds as well as their leaves.
- Because the chayote seed won't live outside the fleshy fruit, seed has not become a commercially available commodity. Stem cuttings and whole fruit, locally available in areas where the plant is commonly grown, are best for starting chayote.
Momordica charantia (balsam pear, bittter melon); Coccinia grandis (ivy gourd, perennial cucumber); Telfairia occidentalis (fluted pumpkin); Tricosanthes cucumerina (snake gourd); Lagenaria siceraria (bottle gourd, calabash); Benincasa hispida (wax gourd); Cucurbita pepo and C. moschata (pumpkins and squashes)