The Chayote vegetable is a member of the squash family, and is often referred to as the ‘vegetable pear’ due to its appearance and shape. Although native to Mexico, Chayotes were brought to China and according to Chinese tradition, the vegetable is through to resemble that of the praying hands of Buddha. This is because of the Chayotes ‘knuckles’ at the bottom of the vegetable which are folding in. Due to these religious connotations, many Buddhist monks grow Chayote.
Chayote squashes come in various forms; however, the standard form is that encompassing light green skin, pear shaped with a uniform texture. Chayotes are small, and contain a single seed inside the white flesh. Commonly, the Chayote squashes grow on average to around 3 inches in diameter, and between 4-6 inches long. They are only available sporadically, during the warm seasons. Due to being uncommon in various supermarkets and fresh market places, the Chayote can range in pricing.
The skin of the Chayote is edible. The single seed found within the Chayote squashes are edible, however, they are often discarded. Overall, the taste of the squash is mild, which means that it is its texture that is sought after making it a pleasant addition to a variety of cuisines. Many compare the taste of a Chayote to that of a potato or cucumber, both which can also be used as ‘fillers’ in soups and salads, providing texture to a meal. Although their taste is minimal, Chayote have a high water and fiber content, meaning that they are very low in calories and contain high levels of vitamins.
Preparation and cooking is very similar to that of other squashes or potatoes and cucumbers. Chayotes need to be washed well, and then sliced as desired. Whilst, there is not need to peel them, one can do as they please. Chayotes can be eaten raw, tosses within salads; or eaten once cooked. They can be incorporated into soups, used as side dishes to accompany meats or fish, or perhaps included within traditional stir-frys. Many conventional Chinese recipes include them by boiling Chayotes in soup with pork meat or bones. Furth more, they make delicious additions when sautéed with a glove of garlic and piece of ginger.