Chayote: A Plant on the Rise

Discover how this versatile fruit is becoming popular in the U.S., in both garden plots and meal plans.

| Spring 2020

chayote
Photo by Adobe Stock/Engdao

My daughter texted me from a Tennessee supermarket last spring, asking, “What the heck is chayote?”

Knowing it was a trendy food that year, I informed her that chayote is a squash-like fruit in the gourd family, and jokingly told her to buy one so she could be on-trend. But she thought it was so ugly, it couldn’t possibly be good.

However, many people think otherwise. Chayote has a long, roaming history around the world, and, whether it’s planted or purchased, this fruit can become a nutritional star in a variety of dishes. In 2018, Pinterest searches escalated 76 percent for chayote. It’s becoming a more common food to see in grocery stores and recipes, so I decided to join the growing community of chayote fans and try my hand at growing and cooking my own.



Chayote’s Trek Across the Globe

Chayote (Sechium edule) is native to Mesoamerica, but no archaeological records exist of the plant’s exact origins. Its closest wild relatives, S. compositum and S. hintonii, are found in southern Mexico and Guatemala, and it seems chayote was domesticated in that region in pre-Columbian times.

As chayote spread throughout Central America and the Caribbean in the 1700s, its many names reflected local languages. It was called “chayote” in the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America. In the Caribbean, where French was prominent, it was and still is called christophine and mirliton. And, in Jamaica, chayote is known as chocho. As chayote found its way to South America and Europe in the 1700s and 1800s, its many names continued to increase. In Italy, people called chayote pimpinela, and in Hawaii, it’s called pimpinola. From there, chayote radiated out to Africa, Asia, and Australia, where it’s called choko.



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