A few years back our French neighbour introduced us to the humble Chayote, a funny, knobbly, oval shaped, green vegetable (which I think is actually a fruit) with a tough, difficult to peel skin. It tastes of hmmm, well… nothing really. “What do we do with it?”, we asked, but were secretly thinking “Why on earth would we bother?”
“C’est bon, C’est bon” our neighbour assured us, “Gateaux de Chouchou, Gratin de Chouchou… beaucoup de choses”.
“Chayote cake? Really?” We weren’t convinced.
Gary was curious to try, so he took the Chayotes , looked up a recipe on the internet and made “Gateaux de Chouchou”, it was surprisingly good, considering it was made from an ugly green vegetable, but the preparation time of over an hour killed it for me. I was too busy to be messing about for hours cooking and peeling a vegetable (or fruit) which wasn’t really worth all the effort. So we forgot all about the Chayote and filed it away in that “Once tried, never to be tried again” folder in our cabinet of experiences.
A few years later and our neighbour tried to convert us again. He’d had a bumper crop or maybe he’d just got fed up with peeling them and didn’t want his efforts of growing them to go to waste, so he persuaded us to take another basket full.
Gary made another Chouchou Gateaux, we tried it on some friends and they liked it. We even managed to get the thumbs up from a non vegetable eater (or maybe he was just being polite). A good way perhaps, to get some vegetables into the diet of a reluctant vegetable eater? Then I tried making Gratin de Chouchou, which was really good. I boiled the Chayotes with their skins on and peeled them after they were cooked and cooled (which was much easier than peeling them raw) chopped them up and mixed them with a white sauce with onions, garlic and bacon, topped with cheese. That went down really well. I’ve made lots of courgette gratins in my time and this is not dissimilar, but the Chayote flesh stays firmer which, in my opinion, is much better.
I then thought I’d look up a little more information on the Chayote to see what benefits would make it worth the effort of preparing and cooking it and was surprised by what I found.
The Chayote (also known by various names including Merliton, Christophene and chouchou) is a member of the squash family and is often referred to as the “vegetable pear.”
The immediate practical advantages of the Chayote is that it ripens in Autumn and its tough skin means it can be kept over winter supplying a very useful source of vegetables (and therefore vitamins) at a time when there is little to be had from the garden. It’s also very easy to grow, so I’m told, is grown from seed and is a climber. In addition according to an article on Healthmad.com it has the following health benefits:
- Good for the heart (Folate – 23% DV)
- May prevent cancer (Vitamin C – 13%)
- Energizes the body (Manganese – 9%)
- Keeps thyroid healthy (Copper – 6%)
- Helps prevent acne (Zinc – 5%)
- Prevents bone loss (Vitamin K)
- Eases tired and heavy legs (Potassium – 4%)
- Good for the brain (Vitamin B6 – 4%)
- Put leg cramps in check (Magnesium – 3%)
So, that’s why the Chayote isn’t Shite. Far from it, it’s actually Shuper (sorry), “Super” as it’s easy to grow, excellent for storing over winter, has lots of health benefits, oh and it tastes OK too!
Nutrient data source: USDA