Are you looking for a crisp, delicious new vegetable to lighten up your meals? Chayote, also called christophene, vegetable pear, alligator pear or mirliton, chuchu or choko, is a variety of squash that is native to Mexico. It dates back to Mayan and Aztec culture, and was introduced to other countries by Spanish explorers.
Buying and Preparing Chayote
This vegetable is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes gourds, squash, cucumbers and melons. It is a beautiful light green, pear-shaped vegetable that looks like someone just took the ends and tucked them inside the squash. Some varieties also have a prickly skin. You shouldn’t buy a chayote with wrinkly skin as this is an indication that it is old, and it will be tough.
Chayote served raw is really more like a fruit than a vegetable, perhaps a crispy apple or a cucumber. The thin skin is edible, but if you like you can peel it with a regular vegetable peeler. Cut it in half and cut out the core with a small paring knife. Then just slice the squash into thin strips which can be eaten raw or with peanut butter or a slice of cheese, or add extra crunch to a salad.
You can also add chayote to soups and stews as you would potatoes or turnips. You can serve it simply sauteed in butter with garlic, parsley and lemon juice. It’s mild taste makes it easy to pair up with stronger flavors such as seafood, chiles, spices or salsa. This versatile vegetable can even be mashed or grilled.
Chayote is a low calorie food that is packed with many different vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of folic acid and potassium, and also contains vitamin C, calcium, vitamin A, most of the B vitamins, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. Chayote is a good source of dietary fiber. In a home remedy for stomach ache, chayote is soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and then served as a tea. This is believed to aid digestion and help prevent stomach ulcers. Infusions of chayote leaves have diuretic properties and have been used to dissolve kidney stones and treat high blood pressure.