Chayote

Is it a squash, or is it a gourd? Is it a vegetable, or is it a fruit? Not only does it have fruit that is eaten like a vegetable, and the tubers are starchy and can  be prepared like sweet potatoes. It has a vine that is edible and the tips are tender and often steamed for eating. But wait the seed is edible too! Also  called vegetable pear, mirliton, pepinello, and choko, the chayote is a lovely pear-shaped vegetable with a delicate, nutty taste that originated in tropical America. It was a common vegetable among the Aztecs prior to Spanish conquest of Mexico. It is still one of the most widely cultivated of the cucurbits in Costa Rica. Chayote (pronounced "chy O teh" - rhyme it with coyote and you'll be close) is a tender, perennial-rooted cucurbit, with rampant climbing vines and leaves resembling those of the cucumber. It can cover a few hundred square feet in optimal conditions. The fruit may weigh as much as 5  pounds, but most often is from 6-12 ounces. Fruits can range in color from ivory white to medium green. While fruits may be slightly grooved and prickly, those grown in Florida are usually smooth. The immature fruits can be eaten raw in salads and provide a good source of vitamin C. Unlike other cucurbits(squash, cucumbers and gourds), the fruit contain only a single, large seed. In addition to all that weirdness that single seed sometimes germinates inside the fruit!

You can harvest chayote as far north as zone 7B. Plants thrive at lower elevations in California and the Southwest, and in the warmer valleys of Oregon and Washington. In its native tropical climate, where the days and nights are nearer to the same length year-round, chayote bears fruit for several months. It requires high levels of soil moisture and can grow at elevations up to 4900 ft (1,500 m). Unlike most cucurbits, it has a daylength requirement of 12 to 12.5 hours for flowering. The plants grow best on hillsides and are usually trellised. Prepare a hill for planting by adding compost, or well rotted manure deeply into a four-by four-foot area that gets full sun. If you have heavy clay, also mix in peat moss to improve drainage and aeration.

The roots rot in soggy soil. In zones 9 and 10, and in low desert areas of the West, choose a spot that give the vines some afternoon shade and protection from drying winds. Don't transplant until all danger of frost is past. The whole fruit is planted as a seed and you can use one that you bought at the grocery store. Chayote must be planted in pairs to produce fruit. Plant one fruit per hill in hills spaced 12 feet apart and in rows spaced 12 feet apart. Place the fruit on its side with the smaller stem end sloping upward and cover with soil. It should be just below the surface. Water your plants deeply every 10 to 14 days during dry weather to avoid excessively stringy fruits. Chayote vines respond especially well to a dose of fish emulsion every two to three weeks. In high-rainfall areas, top-dressing with manure or compost every month will keep the vines growing vigorously. The vines are susceptible to the same insects that attack squash plants, and provide good hiding places for whiteflies. If you need to start plants indoors, lay the fruit on its side in a one-gallon pot of soil and tip the stem up. Cover the fruit with potting soil or sand until only the tip of the stem shows. Keep the pot in a warm spot (80-85º-F/26-29º C ), and water it occasionally. In about a month, the fruit should begin to split and a sprout will emerge. Move the pot to a sunny area. Let three or four sets of leaves develop, then pinch the tip out of the runner to make it branch. Plant in early spring or when the ground has sufficiently warmed. Some type of trellis or support for the climbing vines is required. Most trellises are constructed about head high to facilitate walking beneath the vines for harvesting. But yours just needs to be sturdy to support the heavy mass of vines that will form during the summer. Vines from old perennial roots can grow 30 feet in a single season. Both male and female flowers occur on the same vine. These flowers are visited by insects, both wasps and bees, which facilitate pollination. Flowers appear in September, as the days shorten, and fruits mature about 35 days following pollination. So you will need to have at least a month of frost free days to get a good harvest. One source said chayote could be grown in temperate climates by artificially controlling day length. After six to eight weeks of growth the vines can be shaded with dark cloth on a frame to keep sunlight to eight hours each day for the next four to six weeks. The frame could be moved to shade the vines at about 4:00 PM and removed after sunrise at about 8:00 am. After flowers develop the vines can grow under normal daylength. Gardeners in zones 8 and warmer can overwinter chayote vines by cutting them back to near ground level and mulching them deeply with a loose material such as pine needles. New sprouts will appear as soon as the warm weather returns.  

Chayote fruits can be eaten at any size, but are best when small.Pick them before they begin to split and germinate on the vine, or before the vines are injured by frost. Over mature fruit will sprout on the vine but may still be edible. Store fruits by wrapping them individually in newspaper to protect them and keep them from drying out. The best storage temperature is 50 to 55ºF (10-12ºC), any temperatures below 45' F ( 7.5'C) will result in chilling injuries. It is important to maintain the moisture level, when refrigerated use a sealed container. Or, steam and freeze your excess harvest.

The Chayote is low in calories (approx.40 calories per cup), cholesterol free, high in vitamin C, low in sodium and a good source of fiber. Use it in any dish where you would use cooked summer squash. Steamed and diced, it's particularly good in vegetable or seafood salads. It combines well with fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, dill and fennel, as well as with  onions or shallots and garlic. Chayote is also commonly halved and stuffed. Don't discard the seed when boiled, it is not only edible but also delicious. The roots can become immense and are used much like potatoes, with the distinct advantageof being low calorie.

The chayote also has medicinal uses; infusions of the leaves are used to dissolve kidney stones and to assist in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and hypertension; infusions of the fruit are used to alleviate urine retention. The cardiovascular properties of the infusions of leaves have been tested in modern studies, while their great effectiveness in curing kidney diseases has been known since colonial times on the Yucatan peninsula, where these ailments are very common.

If you are not familiar with Chayote, you can see a picture at: http://www.sci-ctr.edu.sg/ssc/publication/veg/chayote.html

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Other than putting up an 8 foot fence around your garden, just how do you keep the deer from eating your landscaping? One thing to do is to plant species that deer dont like. Daffodil, iris, delphinium, bittersweet and clematis vines are not palatable. Caragana, barberry, lilac, as well as mugo pine and silver maple are also on the deer's list of plants to avoid. So, the one way to have a fairly decent landscape is to choose plants that deer dont like.

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Frozen Apples

Freezing ruptures the cells of the fruit, releasing the sugars and flavor compounds into the surrounding tissue. It also breaks down some of the cellular tissue so that the apples seem softer to the taste. Late cultivars of apples, such as 'Golden Delicious', that don't have time to ripen properly and hence are green and hard when picked, often taste better after a freeze because of the mechanical and chemical changes in the flesh. However, once frozen, apples will not keep well and should be used right away. If your fruit are frozen on the tree, don't touch them. Instead, let them thaw, then pick and use them right away.

By the way, apples freeze at 28.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-1.8ºC)

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Cloves are dried flower buds from the evergreen tree Syzygium aromaticum.

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Wood ashes may contain from 4 to 10 percent potassium. In general, they average about 5 percent potassium with as much as 23 percent calcium. Because of this, they produce an alkaline reaction on the soil. Since they go quickly into solution, you should use them with care. Continued use may raise the pH of the soil, making it too alkaline unless adjustments are made.

Use wood ashes at a rate of about 2-1/2 pounds per 100 square feet of garden area. Do not soak ashes in water before application or the potassium will be lost. Do not apply wood ashes if the soil pH is over 6.5. Apply ashes at least 3 weeks before planting seeds. Coal ashes are not beneficial to plant growth.

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Brandie

*The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.*

 

 

 

 
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