Description - Also known as the Vegetable Pear and the Mirliton, this vegetable is a member of the cucurbit family. The fruit is light green in color and pear shaped. The fruit is produced on vigorous growing vines that are cold sensitive.

Culture - The entire fruit is planted in the spring after all danger of frost. The plants should be spaced at least 8 to 10 feet apart. The vine should be trellised to provide support for maximum production. Heavy fertilization should be avoided or excessive vine growth will reduce yields. As with all cucurbits, male and female flowers are borne on the same plant requiring bees for pollination.

Availability - Chayotes are occasionally found on the market, usually in late summer and early fall. No commercial production occurs in Texas.

Selection - Fruit should be firm and free of bruises and other damage. For eating purposes, avoid fruit that has started to germinate as evidenced by the emergence of the young seedling from the broad end of the fruit.

Storage - Like all cucurbits, chayotes will shrivel badly if stored under dry conditions regardless of temperature. Place in container or plastic bag before storing in refrigerator to maintain high humidity conditions. Ideal storage conditions are about 50 to 59o F. and 90 percent humidity. Chayotes undergo chilling injury below 50o F. Nutrition Information - Chayotes are low in calories, 3 ounces contain 24 calories. They are low in sodium and a fair source of potassium.

Preparation - Chayote can be very simply prepared, peeled, cut into quarters, steamed, drained, buttered and seasoned with fresh lemon or lime juice. Other possibilities include using it in place of potatoes for a unique chilled salad, marinated in vinaigrette dressing: combining with other vegetables in a fresh vegetable stew; stuffing with ground meat; serving au gratin, creamed, or breaded and fried. Chayote invites the cook's imagination with discovery of its versatility.

Microwave Instructions - Wash, peel and cut about two pounds of chayote into quarters. Place in 1 qt. covered casserole with 1/4 cup water. Microwave on high 10-12 minutes.

1. Q: I have been trying to get a number of Chayote fruits to sprout without any luck. I planted one in a flower pot and for another just let it sit a room temperature. Both rotted. Any advise on how to get the fruit to sprout? Is it essential that the fruit begins to sprout before planting in the garden this spring?

A: Chayote is a squash-like fruit which is VERY susceptible to rotting. It is EXTREMELY important to not let the fruit be kept too moist while in the potting mix. In fact, you would be better to slightly moisten the mix when you put the chayote into it and NOT WATER AGAIN until the sprout emerges, roots and begins to grow. All of this activity must occur in a warm, tropical-like atmosphere. You could plant the chayote directly into the soil after it has warmed but I doubt if the growing season will be long.

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