Next food adventure: chayotes, a.k.a. chayote squash, Sechium edule, mirliton, merleton, chuchu, pipinola (my favorite), chowchow and about 20 other names.
Obviously a globally known food (Hawaii to South America to India and Indonesia). And it got started in Mexico, which is just over the border from Texas, my home state. Yet I’ve never seen it, nor do I think I’ve eaten it before.
It’s a cute, somewhat warped looking squash.
I always start off tasting a new food raw. That last phrase makes it sound like it should be bleeding or something, but luckily in this case, no. Chayotes are in the squash family, but only vaguely look like one. They are lime green on the outside, pale white with a hint of green on the inside. And they taste like they look: kindof like a cross between between a cucumber, radish, squash, and honeydew melon. A tiny bit astringent. Not much flavor, but not bad either.
Fyi, apparently if you want to eat it raw, you should peel the outside portion of the skin and wash the sap off, as it sometimes can cause a rash. Being a scientist, of course what do I do? Deliberately rub the chayote skin on the back of my hand for a minute. My skin tingled for about 15 minutes, but no rash. Science can be so disappointing sometimes…
Although reading some more links now – it seems the white sap is what causes the rash, and I didn’t see any sap while cutting/cooking. Cooking apparently removes the problem, and chayotes do not seem to cause any stomach issues. Many chayote recipe sites don’t even mention the rash problem.
Anyway, hunger struck, so I made a variation of stuffed chayote dish I had come across on the web that was a variation of another recipe. I cut the chayote in half, boiled each half for 20 minutes, then hollowed them out, which was very easy to do as the center was melon-y soft by then. The seed in the middle, by the way is soft, and has a better flavor than the rest of the squash. A quick tour online didn’t turn up sites that specialized in chayote heart specialties, but it looked like it had potential. Actually, it looked and felt like an oyster.
So back to the stuffing – tomatoes, rice, mushrooms, garlic, butter, cheese, … It was very easy, and pretty flavorful, but, as the author noted, the flavor comes from the tomato and mushrooms, and less the chayote.
So will I eat chayotes in the future? Probably. But I never did look at the price in the grocery store, which will be a factor. I could see it in salads, more stuffed meals, etc… But I won’t be afraid of chayotes at the very least. Also, apparently the root of the plant is edible as well, so I may try that sometime.
That’s it, chayote in a stuffed shell.