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--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Creamed Chayote with Chives

Unless you've spent a significant amount of time living or traveling in southerly climes, you might be hard-pressed to describe a chayote. I was. In fact, I had never heard of chayote, and I've lived in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina (albeit many decades ago).

If you are likewise clueless about chayote, here's what Wikipedia has to say about them:

The chayote (Sechium edule), also known as sayote, tayota, choko, chocho, chow-chow, christophene, mirliton, and vegetable pear, is an edible plant that belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae along with melons, cucumbers and squash.
The plant has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruit. The vine is grown on the ground or more commonly on trellises.
Costa Rica is a major exporter of Chayotes worldwide. Costa Rican chayotes can be purchased in the European Union, the United States and other places in the world. Chayote is a very important ingredient in the Central American diet. In Mexico, Veracruz state is the most important Chayote growing area, and is also a major exporter of this product, mainly to the United States.


I found my chayote in Market Basket, my source for all things ethnic that can't be found in the "international" aisle in the local markets. It looks kind of like a dark green pear.



I was surprised by the big seed in the middle!



Oh, the recipe! It's actually pretty simple--Creamed Chayote with Chives calls for chayote, vegetable oil, cream, salt, and chives. I chopped my chayote up...



and then apparently stopped taking pictures, because that's all I got. So imagine that the chayote are now sauteing in a pan, and that now I'm adding cream, and that now I'm adding chopped chives and salt.

And now imagine that I'm tasting this dish, thinking huh--this is kind of a bland treatment for such a mild vegetable!

Yup, chayote tastes almost exactly like summer squash or zucchini. If the thought of zucchini cooked in cream turns you on, I say go for it, but methinks there's gotta be a better way. If you happen to have a bumper crop of chayote, turn to the many, many zucchini recipes out there and sub it in. One of my well-traveled friends says she has only ever eaten it stuffed, and frankly I think it would make a better stuffing vehicle than long, skinny, easily tippable zucchini!

Here are some more fun facts about chayote, that I've learned just this morning (thank you, Wikipedia!):

1. The whole darn plant is edible--seeds, roots, leaves, everything. How often do you see that?

2. In Taiwan, they're planted for their shoots, which are called "dragon whiskers".

3. In Australia, there's a persistent rumor that McDonald's uses chayote, not apples, in their so-called "apple pie", which has led to an aggressive marketing campaign on McDonald's part stating that they use REAL APPLES! REALLY!

4. And I'm just going to quote this one: "Due to its purported cell-regenerative properties, it is believed as a contemporary legend that this fruit caused the mummification of people from the Colombian town of San Bernardo who extensively consumed it. The very well preserved skin and flesh can be seen in the mummies today.[citation needed]" Please note that "citation needed" is Wikipedia's mark, not mine!

And, like any seed, fruit or vegetable hailing from the ancients (the Aztecs apparently ate a lot of this stuff), chayote is rumored to have medicinal qualities--ie, a tea made from the leaves is supposed to dissolve kidney stones. Maybe it does--who knows? If I had kidney stones you can bet I would try it since passing a kidney stone is apparently very very very painful.

So my conclusion here is yay for chayote, a new vegetable for me, but in my opinion this particular recipe doesn't do it justice.

2 comments:

Clementina aka "La Traductora" said...

Hi Melissa,
It appears that we are somehow on the same wavelength were chayotes are concerned. I read Wikipedia article, too! Seeing that most "exotic" (for some, not me) are more available to the US market, it is exciting to think what new recipes we will be tasting in the future.

michelle Lafayette said...

Being from New Orleans, this is very common, it's a mirliton (for us) I cream mine. just cut up the whole thing boil in broth add some onion, garlic, pepper flakes and wiz away. It is very very creamy and a wonderfull soup base,(even without adding cream,milk,or half n half) I even use it cold for a summer soup. Unlike a zuc, or summer squash when this is pureed it's smooth as silk and creamy all by itself. It's fantastic for people watching calories! We also eat it sweet! cut up saute with butter and cinnamon, and sugar.Very much like an apple! We also finely slice and use in slaws raw. This is a very multi use veggy unlike the other squash it's compared to. We also use the root as well! Glad to see other folk beginning to use this easy to grow fantastic gourd !