For years, my mum would talk about this green vegetable called chou chou. All I knew was I didn’t want to eat it as a kid. While I still haven’t tried it (I don’t think, at least not knowingly), I knew it was part of my heritage and I recently discovered it on holiday in France… with spiny skin! So I looked it up and finally found out more about this mysterious vegetable.
The facts of chayote
- It’s technically a fruit.
- Its more common name is chayote, derived from the Nahuatl word chayohtli. Chou chou is used predominately in Jamaica but also Mauritius and it is also called christophene in the UK and other parts of the Caribbean (I know my Bajan dad calls it that). They call it chuchu in Brazil.
- It’s part of the gourd family (pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers, luffa, and some other melons).
- Sometimes they’re spiny, sometimes they’re smooth.
- Besides the fruit, the root, stem, seeds and leaves are also edible.
- The fruit is high in amino acids and vitamin C while both the leaves and fruit have anti-inflammatory properties and can act as a diuretic. The leaves can also make tea that people have used to treat high blood pressure and kidney stones.
- It’s used in a variety of global dishes in the Americas, Asia, the Caribbean, and parts of Africa and Europe.
My favourite chayote story involved McDonalds and apple pies in Australia:
In Australia, a persistent urban legend is that McDonald’s apple pies were made of chokos (chayotes), not apples. This eventually led McDonald’s to emphasise the fact that real apples are used in their pies. This legend was based on an earlier belief that tinned pears were often disguised chayotes. A possible explanation for the rumor (sic) is that there are a number of recipes in Australia that advise chayotes can be used in part replacement of canned apples to make the fruit go farther in making apple pies. This likely arose because of the economies of “mock” food substitutes during the Depression Era, shortages of canned fruit in the years following World War II, and the fact that apples do not grow in many tropical and subtropical parts of Australia, making them scarce. Chayotes, on the other hand, grow extensively in Australia, with many suburban backyards featuring chayote vines growing along their fence lines and outhouses.via Wikipedia
Here are some recipes I found on the internet. Please check the ingredients for further dietary requirements. Dairy alternatives can be used in place of things like butter, cheese or milk:
- Spicy Pan Roasted Chayote Squash (vegan friendly)
- Chayote Soup (vegetarian friendly)
- Chayote with Tomato and Green Chile (vegetarian friendly)
- Jamaican Chocho Curry (vegan friendly)
- Chinese Stir-Fried Chayote
- Sautéed Chayote with Sweet Onion and Bacon
- Roasted Chayote With Herbs And Tofu (Or Goat Cheese) (vegan or vegetarian friendly)