Chayote a healthful addition to garden

by Diana Duff Special To West Hawaii Today
Growing food is becoming increasingly appealing to Kona gardeners. When considering what to grow, we need to choose plants that grow and produce bountifully here. It also helps if their growth habit fits into our garden and their flavor fits into our personal palate preferences. Chayote squash can offer all this and more for many local gardeners.

Chayote is a vining member of the Curcubitaceae, or gourd, family. The vine can grow on the ground or onto any support, spreading as much as 20 feet from the roots. Chayote is a perennial tropical vegetable and a valuable food source that is cultivated today throughout the tropics. In addition to producing edible fruit nearly year round, chayote’s stems, tuberous roots, heart-shaped leaves and vining tendrils are also edible. Once the small, cream-colored flowers that appear beneath a leaf or branch are pollinated, they mature into the edible pear-shaped fruit.

Chayote is a native Mexican plant. It was an important staple in the diet of the Aztecs and its name is derived from the Aztec word chayotli. The Mayans ate the fruit as well as the starchy roots and added the stem shoots, as a green, to their bean dishes. Chayote remains an important ingredient in the Mexican diet today.