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How to Grow Vegetables: Chayote

Chayote, scientific name Sechium edule, is an edible plant belonging to the Cucurbitaceae gourd family and is thus closely related with squash, melons and cucumber plants.

It is called by many different common names, these include vegetable pear, Christophene, Mirliton, Chouchoute (in Vanuatu), Christophine (in France), Starprecianté, Citrayota, Citrayote (Ecuador and Colombia), Choko (in Australia and New Zealand), Chuchu (Brazil), Cho cho (Jamaica), Chow chow (India), Sayote (Philippines), Pear squash, Iskus (Nepal) and Güisquil (Guatemala and El Salvador).

Guide to growing Chayote
Chayote by pizzodisevo 1937 (CC: https://www.flickr.com/photos/globetrotter1937/)

It is significantly rich in vitamins C, K and B6; Dietary fiber; Zinc, Copper, Folate; Manganese; Magnesium; Pantothenic Acid, and Potassium.

Chayote is a tender perennial vine that produces a pale green to white, flattened, pear-shaped fruit that tastes like a nutty-flavored squash. Its vine-like stems grow from a tuberous root that can be up to 50 feet (15 m) long. It has hairy leaves that resemble maple leaves, and both male and female flowers are borne on the same vine. The mature tubers, fruits, and the young shoots are edible.

Soil Preparation

It is vital to choose a location that has a rich soil, which is well-drained and moist. The soil should also be loose and rich in organic matter for the plant to yield as much fruits as it can. The site should have access to full sun; although chayote can tolerate partial shade, its yield will be reduced.

Avoid growing chayote in acidic soil, as it prefers a soil that has a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Dig in huge amount of organic matter—compost and well-rotted manure—and fertilizer. See to it that the garden soil is well drained by forking thoroughly.

Chayote Planting Time

Chayote should be planted three to four weeks after the last average frost date in your area, ideally when soil temperature is at least 65°F (18°C).

It performs best in areas where summer temperatures are warm to hot, in tropical or subtropical places such as California, Florida, the Gulf Coast, and in Asia. This edible plant requires 120 to 150 frost free warm days before it can be harvested. If you live in an area with short summers then grow chayote in containers and bring indoors when the temperature begins to cool.

grow Spiky chayote
Spiky chayote by Cristina Bejarano (CC: ttps://www.flickr.com/photos/cristinabe/)

Planting

Set a whole chayote fruit to about four to six inches (10 – 15 cm) deep, at an angle, with the fat-end down, this will allow the stem end to be at the same level with the soil surface. Sow the fruits 10 feet (3m) apart. Since chayote is a vigorous climber, ensure there is a sturdy support or trellis at time of planting.

Avoid allowing maturing fruits to come into contact with the soil as this will promote fruit spoilage and germination while fruits are still attached to the vine.

Chayote Plant Care

Chayote should be provided with and even and regular water regime to prevent the soil from drying out. Adding aged compost and fertilizer to the planting bed before sowing is beneficial for the plant. Side dress chayote with compost tea every four to six weeks, and especially during the growing season and mid-season also side dress chayote with aged compost.

Chayote care should involve the use of companion plants, they can be planted with peppers [https://www.gardenershq.com/Growing-Peppers.php], maize, squash, and pumpkin. Avoid growing the plant with mint, celery plants, and snap beans.

Put a stake or trellis supports in place at planting time. In colder-winter regions, chayote should be protected by providing a thick mulch of 10 to 15 inches (25 – 35 cm) before the first freeze.

Troubleshooting Common Growing Problems

Although there are no known serious diseases of chayote, certain pests such as aphids can attack the vines. Hand pick or hose these off with a strong blast of water. See to it that the garden soil is always clean and well-watered to help prevent pests and insects.

Chayote Harvesting and Storage

Chayote can be harvested when the fruit is already tender and about four to six inches (10 – 15 cm) in diameter. It normally takes around 120 to 150 days from sowing to harvest.

Cut chayote from the vine with the use of hand-pruner or a knife, and they should be harvested before the flesh gets hard. Avoid harvesting outside the above time frame as the fruit flesh will harden.

Chayote can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Diced chayote can be canned or frozen for up to a year.


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