Chayote squash is native to the cultural and regional areas of Mesoamerica, specifically central Mexico. It is one of the earliest cultivated plants within the New World.
The Chayote squash’s global presence now places it on nearly every continent throughout the world besides Antarctica. Central America continues to be the leader in Chayote production with fruit coming out of Mexico, Costa Rica and Guatemala.
Like the tomato, chayote squash is actually a fruit that is used as a vegetable. It is small and pale green, resembling a large pear. In fact, it is also called vegetable pear. Chayote is related to the cucumber and zucchini and has a mild, somewhat sweet flavor. It is in season from May to September, however, you can find chayote in some supermarkets year-round.
Chayote prefers a warm climates, moist soil and long summer days (at least 6 hours of full sunlight are needed for the plant’s to flower). Its roots can run deep and wide and its vines can grow up to 50 feet in length.
The whole plant including the fruit, stem and leaves contains multiple nutrients and has anti-inflammatory properties that can aid in the treatment of high-blood pressure, kidney stones and indigestion. Chayote can also help support weight loss efforts, as it is low in calories and contains fiber.
Several important vitamins and other nutrients can be found in chayote squash. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, folate, thiamin, riboflavin and pyridoxine and potassium.
Chayote also contains antioxidant flavonoids that help to destroy harmful free radicals. And it has fiber which helps control blood sugar levels and is particularly helpful for diabetics and to lowers cholesterol, which promotes a healthier cardiovascular system.
ANEMIA – Anemia is caused by Vitamin B2 and iron deficiency. Chayote is packed with Vitamin B2 and iron which are required by body for the production of red blood cell and thereby increase hemoglobin levels.
GOOD FOR THE HEART – Chayote is rich in folate, magnesium and potassium which are necessary for heart health. Folate decrease the homocysteine levels in the blood and thereby reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
HEALTHIER SKIN – You can get healthy skin easily just by incorporating chayote in your diet. Chayote contains Vitamin E, Folic acid/folate, Vitamin C and zinc which help you to get healthy skin. Zinc controls the skin’s oil production and keeps the skin acne free, Vitamin C delays the aging process, Vitamin E protects and repairs the skin while Folic acid increases firmness of the skin.
HELPS PREVENT CRAMPS – Chayote also contains magnesium, an electrolyte and a mineral which helps prevent muscle cramps.
PREVENTS CONSTIPATION – People suffering from constipation should include chayote in their diet in order to promote bowel regularity. The fruit contains dietary fiber that prevents constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Fiber softens the stools by drawing water into them & making them smooth. Thus, it prevents constipation.
WEIGHT LOSS – Chayote is rich in dietary fiber and very low in calories which make it a perfect food for weight loss. It also has no saturated fats or cholesterol. Dietary fiber produces a feeling of fullness so you feel fuller for longer period. This helps you to prevent overeating.
- Decreases irritability, insomnia and gingivitis
- Enhances the health of teeth, gums, lung and spine
- Improves wound healing and immune system
- Prevent bone loss as it has Vitamin K
- Prevents Alzheimer’s disease, cells damage as well as frequent colds & infections
- Protects you from depression and fatigue
- The copper and manganese in chayote help to keep the thyroid healthy.
- Vitamin B6 in the fruit helps to improve memory performance
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Chayote has become popular in the U.S. and is found in many large markets. They are being cultivated in Florida, California, and Louisiana. They are very common in Latino grocery stores.
Select firm, smooth, unwrinkled chayote. Old chayote become wrinkled and become dry and tough. Chayote will keep refrigerated for many days but it is best to use as quickly as possible.
To prepare, wash chayote thoroughly in cold running water just before cooking. Sometimes its fruits may require light scrub at places where prickles or dirt attached firmly.
Peeling of skin is not required in young, tender pears. However, larger and over-mature fruits need light peeling using a vegetable peeler. Raw chayote exudes a sticky liquid (sap) when peeled that can cause skin irritation. You may want to peel them under cold running water or to use protective gloves.
HOW TO ENJOY
Chayote squash can be eaten both raw and cooked and at various stages of maturity.
Chayote squash soups are delicious