Chayote is said to have originated in Mexico, but can now be found throughout the world if you know where to look. It is a member of the gourd family but certainly doesn't look like a gourd.
In mild-winter areas it grows as a perennial. Frost will kill back the tops but the vine renews itself in spring if the ground does not freeze. Chayote is fast growing and best supported by a trellis or fence. Flowers appear in late summer and fruit is ready for harvest about a month later, and will continue until frost.
Plant chayote in the spring after all frost danger has passed. The whole fruit is used as the seed and can be obtained from the market. Place the fruit on a slant with the wide end down, stem end slightly exposed. The vines are vigorous and grow quite large; one plant can produce 3 or more dozen fruits. Vines need about 6 months of warm, frost-free weather to bear a usable crop.
In cold climates mulch the roots heavily with compost or similar material for winter protection. Then pull the mulch aside in spring at sprouting time. The growing plant will need plenty of water and fertilizer but not too much nitrogen, which will produce excessive vine growth.
Pick chayote when it is 4 to 6 inches long. Store fruits in a cool place; they will keep for 2 to 3 months for eating later or for seeding in the spring. If the plant sends out shoots in storage, which is likely, cut them back to 2 inches when you plant.
Chayote can be used in more ways than squash.
It may be diced and steamed until tender, stuffed and baked, marinated and cooked for use in cold salads, pickled or candied.
A favorite food of many Mexican cooks, it takes seasonings well and complements many dishes. Young chayote can be cooked without peeling. Large fully mature fruit will have a tough skin. Cut into slices, right through the flat inner seed. It has a nut like like flavor after cooking.
Good-quality chayote will be firm, unblemished and light to medium-green in color. The skin may be either smooth or rough.
Avoid product that is soft or blemished.
Chayote Squash is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It's also a good source of Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Magnesium and Potassium, and an excellent source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Zinc, Copper and Manganese.