Chayote is a gourd like squash that is about the size and shape of a very large pear. It is also known as mirliton, choko (in Australia and New Zealand), christophene (in France), Chuchu (Brazil), Chow Chow (India), Cho cho (Jamaica) or pear squash. It is an edible plant that belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae along with melons, cucumbers and squash.
Chayote is known by different name in Indian regional languages such as Seema vankaya or Bengaluru vankaaya (in Telugu), Chocho or Chow Chow or Bengaluru katharikkai (in Tamil) etc. Chayote is grown in the US in several states including California, Florida, and Louisiana, and throughout South and East Asia, where they are harvested much larger than in the Americas, but it is native to Latin America. Historically, this squash was one of the primary foods of the Aztecs and Mayas.
The word “chayote” is a Spanish derivative of the Nahuatl word chayohtli. Chayote was one of the many foods introduced to Europe by early explorers, who brought back a wide assortment of botanical samples. The skin is pale green and smooth with slight ridges that run lengthwise. Many compare the color to a light green apple. The flesh is white and there is one soft seed in the middle. The chayote fruit is used in both raw and cooked forms. When cooked, chayote is usually handled like summer squash; it is generally lightly cooked to retain the crisp flavor. Raw chayote may be added to salads or salsas, and it is often marinated with lemon or lime juice. It can also be eaten straight, although the bland flavor makes this a dubious endeavor. Whether raw or cooked, chayote is a good source of amino acids and vitamin C.
Chow Chow has thick rough thorny skins. They are widely used in south Indian and included in recipes like chow chow sambar (squash cooked with lentils), bisi bele bhath, mor kuzhambu (chow chow cooked with buttermilk), Chow chow kootu, Beef soup or curry. Generally bland but gets blended well with other flavors and taste exceptionally delicious. Although most people are familiar only with the fruit as edible, the root, stem, seeds and leaves are as well edible. The tubers of the plant are eaten like potatoes and other root vegetables while the shoots and leaves are often consumed in salads and stir fries, especially in Asia.
In the most common variety, the fruit is roughly pear shaped, somewhat flattened and with coarse wrinkles, ranging from 10 to 20 cm in length. The flesh has a fairly bland taste, and a texture described as a cross between a potato and a cucumber. Although generally discarded, the seed has a nutty flavor and may be eaten as part of the fruit.
The fruit does not need to be peeled and can be eaten raw in salads. Cooked or raw, it has a very mild flavor by itself, and is commonly served with seasonings (e.g., salt, butter and pepper in Australia) or in a dish with other vegetables and/or flavorings. It can also be boiled, stuffed, mashed, baked, fried, or pickled in escabeche sauce. Fresh green fruit are firm and without brown spots or signs of sprouting. Smaller ones are tenderer. The tuberous part of the root is starchy and eaten like a yam (can be fried). It can be used as pig or cattle fodder as well as being eaten by humans. Chayote is an important part of traditional diets across Mesoamerica.
In Thai cuisine, the young shoots and greens are often eaten stir-fried or in certain soups. In Brazil and other latin countries it is used in salads, soups or soufflés. The younger spike less fruits may be eaten raw. Chow chow is rich in Vitamin C and potassium, and 1 cup counts for around 40 calories. The vegetable in itself is quite tasteless but chow chow bhath and chow chow koottu seem to be quite popular, especially in the Andhra cuisine.
The leaves and fruit have diuretic, cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory properties, and a tea made from the leaves has been used in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and hypertension, and to dissolve kidney stones. Chow Chow is high in fibre, making it good for digestion. It contains about twice the potassium and Vitamin C as the average cucumber.
Chayote squash, or Sechium edule, makes a low-calorie side dish, having 11 calories in a one-half cup serving. A one-half cup serving of chayote squash contains 1 g of protein and 5 g of carbohydrates, with 2 g sugar. This squash has no cholesterol or fat and is also extremely low in sodium, having only 3 mg in one-half cup. Chayote squash also contains B complex vitamins, including 61 mcg folate and small amounts of niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6