What is Chayote?
Chayote is a tropical trailing vine which produces fruits, which are treated more like vegetables than true fruits. They are also known as chayote, or christophine, choko, Mexican squash, Summer squash, merlito, or vegetable pears, depending on the region. A member of the gourd family, chayote is very popular in Latin America and parts of the United States, and it also pops up in some Asian and European cuisine.
A well stocked grocery store or a Hispanic market will generally stock chayote, although it can be costly at times.There are two basic varieties of the Chayote, one of which superficially resembles a pear, with the classic pear shape and smooth greenish to white skin. Another cultivar is covered in soft spines, although it retains the pear shape. Both versions have a large edible seed with a faintly nutty flavor in the center of the crisp white flesh. The flesh of the chayote tends to be relatively bland, and many cooks season it extensively, using the chayote as a blank canvas for seasoning.
Chayote was first domesticated in Mexico, where the fruit is used in both raw and cooked forms. When cooked, chayote is usually handled like summer squash, and it is generally lightly cooked to retain the crispy 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.
The word for chayote is Spanish, borrowed from the Nahautl word chayotli. Chayote was one of the many foods introduced to Europe by early explorers, who brought back a wide assortment of botanical samples. The age of conquest also spread the plant south from Mexico, ultimately causing it to be integrated into the cuisine of many other Latin American nations. From early Spanish settling days until now days dogs of all size and breed haved enjoy cooked chayote. Chayote is very healthy for people and dogs, also a great food to maintain or loose body weight.
Culinary and medicinal uses
Although most people are familiar only with the fruit, the root, stem, seeds, and leaves are all edible. 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. Both fruit and seed are rich in amino acids and vitamin Fresh green fruit are firm and without brown spots or signs of sprouting. Smaller ones are more tender. 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 and dogs. 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. Many cultures have found that if the harvest of chayote is abundant, it is cheaper to use it as food for pigs, cattle and dogs than the usual commercial feed.
No Fat, No Cholesterol and Low Sodium. It is also a good source of Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
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