Chayote: an exotic vegetable for your garden
The chayote in a nutshell:
Photo Oleg Magni in Pexels
Latin name: Sechium edule
Common names: Chayotte, christophine, chouchou
Type: Perennial deciduous
Height: 2 to 5 m
Planting distance: 1 m
Soil: rich in humus, loose
Harvest: End of September, October
The chayote is a perennial climbing plant that can be eaten in all its parts and especially its pyriform fruits. Originally from Mexico, it was later introduced in many countries, such as the Antilles, where it is called “christophine“, or Reunion, where it is called “chouchou“. Used to warm climates, it is not very rustic. However, it is very possible to grow it in our regions by respecting some rules.
The chayote plantation
To grow chayote, certain conditions must be met:
- an exposure to the sun;
- in regions with harsh winters, it must be able to protect itself from the cold;
- the soil must be rich in humus (rich in organic matter) and worked in depth.
As you can see, whether it is in an orchard or in your own backyard, you will have to make some preparations before thinking about planting a chrystophine plant.
Soil preparation :
In order for your soil to be sufficiently fertile and contain enough humus, you will need to make an amendment. To do this, you will have to do it:
- Apply well decomposed manure or fertilizer to the surface in the fall before planting. You can also add ash if you have it.
- Using a spade fork, turn the soil over deeply to mix all the elements together. It is better to avoid using the shovel, to disturb the subway fauna as little as possible, especially the earthworms.
- In the following spring, just before transplanting, go over the soil slightly.
The first stage of planting will take place in February. It consists of taking a large pot filled with soil and placing a whole fruit horizontally. It will have to be buried at two thirds of its height. Then place the pot in a space full of light and, above all, protected from the cold and frost.
The christophine in the earth:
Once a vigorous plant is obtained, it can be transplanted into the soil from May (preferably after the Ice Saints). Frosts will no longer be a problem.
Once the plant has been replanted, remember to install a trellis that is tall and strong enough to support the mass of foliage and fruit to come.
The chayote in pot:
The growth conditions of chayote contraindicate it for potting. However, if you have a veranda or shelter from the cold (like a greenhouse), it is conceivable to do so. However, you will have to get a pot or tub big enough to support the roots and foliage.
Cultivation and maintenance
Chayote does not require much maintenance. Sensitive to drought, however, it should be watered regularly and in abundance.
There is no need to cut the christophine. However, to densify the foliage at the beginning of growth, you can pinch (cut) the young plants – above 3 or 4 leaves.
A smart tip: apply a thick mulch at the foot of your chayote. You will have the double advantage of limiting water loss by evaporation in summer and protecting the foot from frost in winter.
Diseases and pests :
Christophine is a hardy plant. It seems to be little susceptible to diseases and pests or parasites do not seem to attack it.
Collection and conservation of the christophon
The chayote fruits appear late (September). Therefore, the harvest takes place in October or even November if the weather conditions allow it.
Once harvested, the fruit can be kept for a long time. Stored in a cool place, they can be consumed several months after the harvest.
The chayote in the kitchen
Like the tuberous nasturtium, all parts of the nasturtium are edible:
- young spring shoots are eaten like asparagus;
- the young leaves can be cooked like vegetables (a bit like spinach);
- The fruit can be eaten raw (in salads) or cooked (simple, grilled, stuffed, etc.);
- the tubers, on the other hand, are prepared like potatoes.
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