Cooking with the mysterious Chayote

Today, I present another mystery vegetable I found over the weekend, the chayote. I’ve seen it before but never bought one before. It’s typically grown in Costa Rica and is of the same family as cucumbers, melons, and squash. It’s firm-fleshed and about the size of a pear.

The chayote can be prepared in nearly every way imaginable, but I opted to use it in soup. Actually, it somewhat thicker than a soup, not quite a stew …

Raw chayote has the texture of a starchy cucumber, like the cross between a cucumber and potato. The flavor is quite subtle and it’s crisp to the bite. It can even be used raw in salads. I ate a few pieces and found it refreshing and light.

The chayote plant and leaves have been used medicinally to treat arteriosclerosis, hypertension, and even to dissolve kidney stones. As a man who has suffered two rather painful kidney stones so far, I can only assume my body instinctually knew to buy these chayote!

I purchased the chayote at my local Chinese market and it reminded me of bitter melon. Joe’s mom made me a bitter melon soup once, so I decided to try the chayote in a similar preparation.

Chayote and beef soup

1lb. cubed beef
1 can butter beans, drained/rinsed
4-6 small tomatoes
2 chayote
3/4 cup fregola (or other small pasta)
1 small onion, finely chopped
8 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 tsp. ground pepper

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add oil. Toss cubed beef with flour and ground black pepper. Place into pot and brown on all sides. While meat is cooking, add bay leaf and the whole tomatoes. I used 6 2″ diameter vine-ripe tomatoes. You don’t need to chop them, they will eventually break apart. If they don’t, just use the back of your spoon to pop them towards the end of cooking.

After meat has browned, add onion. Cook until onions start to become translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add chicken stock and scrape any stuck bits from the bottom of the pan. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

The chayote does not need to be peeled. I sliced it in half lengthwise. Toward the bottom is a soft pit. I used a spoon to scoop it out. I then sliced each half crosswise into 1/4″ slices. Oddly, it looked like a pile of granny smith apples when I finished. I read on wikipedia that in Australia there was a rumor that McDonald’s apple pies were made with chayotes instead of apples. I can see how such a rumor might start :-)

After the soup has cooked for 30 minutes add the butter beans and chayote, along with the paprika, garam masala, and ginger. Return to a simmer, then add the pasta. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until chayote becomes tenders. It will retain a firm, potato-like texture but will begin to become slightly translucent.

The pasta and flour will slightly thicken the broth. I served with a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves and dash of smoked paprika.

The chayote remained firm in texture, although soft to the bite. It developed a slightly stronger flavor and worked well with the other ingredients.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Geggie March 19, 2008, 10:26 am

    That’s a merliton for us from Lousiana, or an alligator squash. Yep, used alot in stews and soups.

    Come by my blog when you get a chance, I have a little something for you today!

  • Peter M March 19, 2008, 11:41 am

    Wyle E. Chayote..Oops…that’s coyote! lol

    I too see this at our Asian markets. Now I know I can use it in soups & stews…thanks Allen!

  • Lily March 19, 2008, 12:09 pm

    When I lived in southern Mexico, we ate chayote in stews and soups, baked, au gratin, or stuffed. The quickest way to fix them is boiling them in salt water :). I liked mine with a little lemon juice.
    Also, the soft pit is edible, and according to my family, “the best part of the chayote”.
    Cheers!

  • Ben March 19, 2008, 1:18 pm

    I grew up eating chayotes and I hated them. Hehehe. Now I can eat them, but just in a few dishes. Chayote is a co-star in Mole de Olla and the mole de olla I made for the joust last month.
    Finding new food is always exciting, isn’t it?

  • Peter G March 19, 2008, 2:19 pm

    Great use of the chayote Allen. The soup/stew seems very hearty.

  • Erin March 19, 2008, 4:58 pm

    That looks like a gigantic green walnut :) you’re so brave with your ingredient selection.

  • Allen March 19, 2008, 5:09 pm

    Geggie – Thanks for the award!

    Peter M – LOL — now you need to go buy your own Wyle E. Chayote!

    Lily – Oh no, I threw away the best part. I’ll buy more and make sure to eat the pits next time :-)

    Ben – Are they too bland for you? I like what you’ve done with prickly pears today!

    Peter G – Thank you!

    Erin – Haha — yeah, it does look a bit like a big green walnut. Our stores don’t carry too many exotic ingredients, so my adventures/bravery won’t last for too long :-)

  • Manggy March 23, 2008, 7:20 am

    Chayotes (Sayote here) are ubiquitous in the Philippines, Allen– in fact we have that same apple pie rumor. We actually don’t really care if it’s true. It’s not like they’re very different nutritionally without the apple skin. The most common way of preparing chayote here is to saute it with a few tomatoes and shrimp, then finish with a light broth, or to serve it as part of a chicken soup with ginger (“Tinola”). I do hope you try the latter someday :)

  • StickyGooeyCreamyChewy March 29, 2008, 8:56 pm

    I’ve seen these at the market for years but never knew what to do with them. Now that I have a recipe to try, I’ll probably never find them again! ;)

  • Anonymous April 24, 2008, 9:58 pm

    In Australia they’re called Chokoes and once-upon-a-time every back garden had a chokoe vine (often growing on the wire of the chicken pen). I have a lovely “Women’s Weekly” recipe of a gratin type dish with the chayote/chokoe (blanched) with diced bacon and onion, topped with cream and cheese and baked in an oven. Best way I know to ‘cure’ the health giving properties of this vegetable!

  • Anonymous May 9, 2008, 4:29 pm

    i juiced it with apples …..delicious {especially cold}

  • Anonymous August 3, 2008, 7:55 pm

    I made a stew today with chayote and pork rib.It tastes good.

  • Georgieanna Cooke January 11, 2010, 12:44 pm

    Here’s a recipe we make in New Orleans. This is like a vegetable pear. Very tasty.

    Merliton Casserole

    8 merlitons, boiled until softened
    1 lg. onion or 2 bunches green onions, diced into small pieces
    4 stalks celery, chopped fine

    1 large bell pepper, small dice
    3 or 4 toes garlic, diced small
    Fresh parsley, minced
    Fresh hot peppers or cayenne, to taste

    3 to 4 pounds small shrimp
    Bread crumbs
    Butter

    Directions

    Cook merlitons in a large pot of boiling water until softened. You can stick a sharp knife into the seam to see if they are cooked thru. Let cool and then cut in half lengthwise. Make sure to get the seed and all the membrane out before scooping out the meat of the merliton. Sauté onion, celery, and bell pepper with 1 tablespoon butter until tender. Add the garlic and parsley. Turn off fire and cover. Meanwhile take the deveined shrimp and cook in ¼ stick butter until shrimp are cooked, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped or mashed up merliton meat along with some salt and pepper, to taste, with the seasonings and stir until completely incorporated. Finally add bread crumbs and the shrimp and mix well. Add to a baking dish and sprinkle some bread crumbs on top. Place a few pats of butter on top of casserole and bake in a 350° degree oven until hot and bubbley. Serve while hot.

  • Gringo Guy February 23, 2010, 1:00 pm

    I’ve been living in Costa Rica for over three years, and finally started using these. They are great in a dish called Picadillo which can be made using either chayote, plantain, potatoes, or even green papayas (and is then called papaya verde). Using chayote is very good, but papaya verde is even better. Here’s a link to a simple version: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Picadillo-de-Platano/Detail.aspx but this one does not include achiote, which is a red colored flavoring used a lot here. Just remember to dice everything small for the typical Costa Rican version and, if you have achiote, don’t add too much.

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