Did you know that chayote is good for the heart and may also help prevent cancer? Discover the surprising health giving goodness of this cucumber relative.
Although chayote (Sechium edule) is typically prepared as a vegetable, it is in fact a fruit. It’s quite crunchy flesh can be eaten both raw and cooked. Around the world it is known by various names including merliton, christophene and chowchow. It is a member of the squash family and is referred to as a “vegetable pear” or chocho.
1. Good for the heart (Folate)
Chayote is an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin which helps prevent homocystein build-up. Studies have shown that too much of this amino acid in the blood is linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
2. Helps prevent cancer (Vitamin C)
Vitamin C is known as one of the powerful antioxidants, substances that may protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Studies suggest that antioxidants may slow or possibly prevent cancer development. Chayote is a very good source of vitamin C, providing 17% of the RDI.
3. Helps the body produce energy (Manganese)
Start your day with a breakfast of chayote omelet. Its manganese content helps the body convert protein and fat to energy.
4. Helps prevent constipation (Fiber)
To promote bowel regularity, add fiber to your diet with the help of this vegetable.
5. Keeps thyroid healthy (Copper)
It helps iodine in keeping the thyroid healthy by providing copper, a mineral linked in thyroid metabolism, especially in hormone production and absorption.
6. Helps prevent acne (Zinc)
It is a good source of zinc, a mineral which has shown to influence hormones which controls the production of oil in the skin.
7. Helps prevent bone loss (Vitamin K)
Tell grandma to eat chayote for a natural supply of vitamin K. Studies revealed a connection between vitamin K and osteoporosis.
8. Helps reduce blood pressure (Potassium)
Chayote can add to your DV of potassium, the mineral which helps lower blood pressure levels.
9. Good for the brain (Vitamin B6)
It can provide vitamin B6. Study participants have shown that vitamin B6 helps improve memory performance in some age groups.
10. Helps prevent leg cramps (Magnesium)
Chayote also contains magnesium, an electrolyte and a mineral which helps prevent muscle cramps.
Nutrient data source: USDA
Chayote Squash is available year round, though peak harvests are from September through May.Current Facts
The chayote squash, scientific name, Sechium edule, is the edible fruit of a tropical perennial vine plant which is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with other squashes, gourds, cucumbers and melons. Although the most commercially known varieties are lime green and pear shaped, chayote squashes have many different guises. There are varieties with different colors, shapes and textures, though their shared common denominator is their flesh’s color and the fruit’s flavor. As the Chayote squash is utilized in so many cultures it has adapted many other common names, including Madeira marrow, vegetable pear, gayota, huisquil, papa del aire, chocho and pimpinella.
The common Chayote squash is defined by its ubiquitous pear-like shape, its pale lime green coloring and the deep linear indentations along the fruit’s thin skin that meet at its flower end. The Chayote’s flesh is creamy white, semi-crisp and succulent to cottony as it matures. Its central core contains small seeds, which can be eaten, though most often are simply discarded. Chayote squash’s flavor is lacking in depth and offers a mere insipid taste, thus allowing it to be a carrier sponge of other accompanying ingredient’s flavors. The Chayote fruit is just one of the edible elements of the plant; its tendrils, flowers, even its roots are also edible, thus expanding its culinary utilities.
Chayote squash can be eaten both raw and cooked. As it lacks any definitive flavors, its textural qualities play center stage in its culinary uses. It is often shredded and added to salads, along with fresh and bright flavors such as cilantro, greens, other fruits and citrus. The fruit can be slow roasted, grilled, skin peeled and added to soups, stews and served as an accompaniment to main courses featuring meats such as roasted pork and poultry. Other complimentary flavors and ingredients include legumes, chiles, both soft and hard cheeses, garlic, cumin, summer melons and nuts such as pistachios, pepitas and almonds. Beyond the fruit, the tendrils and shoots can be added to salads, used as a wilting green, their flowers stuffed and/or fried similar to zucchini flowers. The seeds are dried and toasted, The roots are stored for two years prior to boiling and frying.
Chayote squash’s legacy is intrinsically linked to the culinary culture of Latin Americas. Its influence over cultures from the New World to the Old World span centuries of time and travel. Chayote squash originally defined culinary elements of the Aztecs in central Mexico. The Aztec appetite would spread throughout Mexico and Central America and eventually Spain adapted the influence of chayote, among other New World ingredients, into their cuisines. Ironically, Spanish explorers would bring the chayote squash back with them to other New World destinations, specifically within the West Indies and the Caribbean.
Chayote squash is native to the cultural and regional areas of Mesoamerica, specifically central Mexico. It is one of the earliest cultivated plants within the New World, though there is no definitive archaeological evidence to prove just how long Chayote squash has been in existence. The Chayote squash’s global presence now places it on every continent throughout the world besides Antarctica, growing at sea level heights up to 6,000 feet. As its semi-tropical origins suggest, though, it prefers warm climates, ample soil moisture and long summer days (at least 12 ours of sunlight are needed for the plant’s to flower). Its roots can run deep and wide and its vines can grow up to 50 feet in length, which has placed the plant on some regions’ invasive plant lists, including Hawaii, where the plant is primarily grown in home gardens.
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