Chayote (Sechium edule).
Flowers and fruits.
Chayote - Sechium edule
Chayote (Sechium edule) is an edible plant belonging to the gourd family
Cucurbitaceae, but unlike the familiar melons, gourds, squashes, and pumpkins, the fruits of which contain many
seeds, the Chayote fruit contains just a single seed. Globally it is known by many names including christophene or
christophine, cho-cho, Cidra (Antioquia, Caldas, Quindio and Risaralda regions of
Colombia), Guatila (Boyaca and Valle del Cauca regions of Colombia), Centinarja
(Malta), Sousou or Chou-chou (Mauritian Creole), pimpinela (Madeira), Pipinola (Hawaii), tayota
(Dominican Republic), Mirliton (Haitian Creole), pear squash, vegetable pear,
chouchoute, choko, guisquil (Guatemala, El Salvador), Pataste (Honduras), Dashkush
(Manipuri), Su su (Vietnam).
In Greece is known as "Jonah's gourd". The word chayote is a Spanish derivative of the Nahuatl word
Chayote is originally native to Mesoamerica. Chayote was probably domesticated in
Guatemala or Mexico and was cultivated by the Aztecs in Pre-Columbian times. It has been introduced as a crop
worldwide. Chayote was one of the many foods introduced to Europe by early
explorers, who brought back a wide assortment of botanical samples. The Age of Conquest also spread the plant south from
Mexico, ultimately causing it to be integrated into the cuisine of many other Latin American
nations. It is now grown throughout the tropics and subtropics. Chayote is commercially important in several
countries, particularly in Latin America, including Brazil, Mexico, and Costa
Rica. It is popular in the West Indies as well. Chayote's survival outside cultivation is favored by its
self-compatible breeding system and generalist pollinator syndrome. In areas where it is known to be
introduced, Chayote has frequently naturalized; e.g., in Java and Reunion.
Chayote is an herbaceous perennial vine with branched
tendrils. The angled hollow stem is longitudinally furrowed and covered sparsely with
trichomes. The shoots, after emergence from the sprouted fruit, elongate rapidly for the first few
meters, but the growth rate subsequently declines. With the decline of stem
elongation, the lower axillary lateral shoots grow rapidly and the vines can attain lengths of 6 to 15 m, depending on
The 7 to 25 cm wide leaves are broadly ovate, angled, or slightly lobed and cordate
(heart-shaped) at the base and apiculate (tapered) at the apex. The petiole (leaf
stalk) is 3 to 15 cm long. The leaves resemble those of cucumber (Cucumis
The greenish or cream-colored flowers are borne in the leaf axils, the male flowers
(which have prominent nectaries) in small peduncled (stalked) clusters and the female flowers singly
(both types of flowers are present on the same plant). The calyx (the collective term for a flower's
sepals) is deeply five-parted and the corolla (the collective term for a flower's
petals) is rotate (flat-faced and wheel-shaped). The five stamens have fused
filaments; the ovary is inferior and the style and stigma form a small head.
After pollination by bees (or humans), the ovary grows into a fleshy 10 to 20 cm long
pear-shaped fruit with longitudinal furrows. The whitish flesh of the fruit encloses the single
seed, which is flat, white, and around 3 to 5 cm long. The surface of the white or green fruit may be spiny or
smooth. Some varieties have spiny fruits. The flesh has a fairly bland taste, and a texture is described as a cross between a potato and a
cucumber. Although generally discarded, the seed has a nutty flavor and may be eaten as part of the
fruit. The root is large and tuberous. Unlike other cucurbits, which are propagated by
seeds, Chayote is propagated using the entire fruit. It is also viviparous, with a sprout developing from the embryo of the seed while the fruit is still attached to and growing on the
The chayote fruit is used in mostly cooked forms. When cooked, chayote is usually handled like summer
squash, it is generally lightly cooked to retain the crispy consistency. Though rare and often regarded as especially unpalatable and tough in
texture, raw chayote may be added to salads or salsas, most often marinated with lemon or lime
juice. Whether raw or cooked, chayote is a good source of vitamin C.
Although most people are familiar only with the fruit as being
edible, the root (which is around 20% carbohydrate), stem, seeds and leaves are edible as
well. The tubers of the plant are eaten like potatoes and other root vegetables, while the shoots and leaves are often consumed in salads and stir
fries, especially in Asia. Like other members of the gourd family, such as
cucumbers, melons, and squash, chayote has a sprawling habit, and it should only be planted if there is plenty of room in the
garden. The roots are also highly susceptible to rot, especially in containers, and the plant in general is finicky to
The tuberous part of the root is starchy and eaten like a yam (can be fried). It can be used as pig or cattle
fodder, as well.
The leaves and fruit have diuretic, cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory
properties, and a tea made from the leaves has been used in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and
hypertension, and to dissolve kidney stones.
̀odern Greeks gave the name "Jonah's
gourd" to Sechium edule. In the biblical Book of Jonah,
God causes a plant (in Hebrew a Kikayon) to grow over Jonah's shelter in desert to give him some shade from the
sun. The fast-growing plant referred to in the biblical Book of Jonah is most often translated into English as
“gourd.” However, this is a mistranslation that dates to the appended
Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, in which the Hebrew word qiqayon
(castor, Ricinus communis, Euphorbiaceae) was transformed into the somewhat
similar-sounding Greek word kolokynthi (colocynth, Citrullus colocynthis). In translation of the Greek into
Latin, kolokynthi became the similar-sounding cucurbita (gourd). This is reflected in early
iconography, the plant most often depicted being a long-fruited Lagenaria siceraria
(bottle or calabash gourd), a fast-growing climber.
In fact there is no connection between american plant Sechium edule and the Book of
It is obvious that Greek (ancient and modern) were literally lost in translation!