The origin of Chayote can be traced from Central America. The botanical name is Sechium edule why the common names are vegetable pear, Chayote, sou-sou, chocho, chuchu, one-seeded cucumber. Chayote is actually a warm-season, tender perennial. Plant the whole fruit three to four weeks after the last average frost date in spring when the weather has warmed. They actually grow best where summer temperatures are very warm to hot, in tropical or subtropical regions. Chayote requires about one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty frost-free days to reach harvest.
Chayote is actually a vine that produces a pale green to white, flattened-pear-shaped fruit that really taste like a nutty-flavored squash. The vine-like stems grow from a tuberous root and they can reach about fifty feet long. The leaves are also hairy and resemble maple-leaves. The male and female flowers of the plant are borne on the same vine. The young shoots, the fruit, and the mature tubers are edible.
Yield: You can plant one chayote vine per household of four persons.
How to Plant Chayote
Site preparation: Plant the chayote in full sun. The chayote can also be grown in partial shade but the yield will reduced. Grow the chayote in a loose, well-drained but moisture-retentive soil that is really rich in organic matter. Chayote actually prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
The planting time: Plant chayote three to four weeks after the last average frost date in spring when the soil temperature has reached at least sixty-five degree Fahrenheit. Chayote actually grows best where summer temperatures are warm to hot, in tropical or subtropical regions such as the Gulf Coast, Florida, and California. Chayote requires one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty frost-free warm days to reach harvest. Chayotes are grown in containers in short-summer regions so that they can be brought indoors when the temperatures cool.
The Chayote vine and the fruits Planting and spacing: Set a whole chayote fruit about four to six inches deep, fat end down, and at an angle so that the stem end is just level with the soil surface. Sow the seeds or the fruits ten feet apart. Chayote is actually a vigorous climber; you can set a sturdy trellis or support in place at planting. Make sure you don’t allow the maturing fruit to come in contact with the soil, they will spoil and germinate while they are still attached to the vine.
Chayote Companion plants: Squash, Pumpkin, corn, peppers. Make sure you don’t grow chayote with mint, celery, or snap beans.
Growing Chayote in container: Chayote can be easily grown in a container, but the yield will not be large. You can grow chayote in a container that is about twenty-four inches deep. Like I said earlier, Chayote is actually a vigorous climber and a trellis or support should be set in the container at planting time.
How to Care for Chayote
Watering and feeding: You need to give the chayote regular water, don’t allow the soil to dry out. You can also add aged compost to the planting bed before planting. You can side dress the chayote with compost tea every four to six weeks during the growing season. You can side dress the chayote with aged compost at midseason.
Chayote Care: Make sure you put a trellis or stake supports in place at planting time. In cold-winter regions protect the chayote plant with thick mulch ten to fifteen inches thick before the first freeze.
Pest control: Aphids can easily attack chayote vines. You can hand-pick or hose them off with a strong blast of water.
Diseases control: Chayote plant actually has no serious disease problems.
How to Harvest Chayote
Chayote will actually be ready for harvest when the fruit is tender and when they are about four to six inches in diameter, usually one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty warm, frost-free days after planting. You can cut the chayote from the vine with a knife or hand-pruner. You need to harvest the chayote before the flesh gets hard.
Storing and Preserving Chayote
Chayote can be kept in the refrigerator for about one week. Diced chayote can be frozen or even canned for about one year.