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Aaaaand, they’re sorta rotting, too.
Those are not good-looking fruits.
For those of you who may be newcomers, Chayote is a squash-like fruit that is loaded with Vitamin C. They’re native to Mexico, where they grow much like squash or cucumbers do – on vines. Their taste is a little bland (unless you saute them with butter – then they taste like butter), but they are sturdy, which makes them great for calabacitas or stew.
You can’t buy Chayote seeds because they must be inside the fruit in order to germinate. Putting the fruit on a sunny windowsill is a good way to get them to sprout. Once the sprout is about six inches long or so, they can be planted outside. (Some people say you should put the fruit in a dark location to force the sprouting, but I like the sunny windowsill.)
Last year was my first attempt to grow Chayote, and my experiment failed. That was mainly because I designated them to the backyard wasteland. I associate Mexico with drought conditions, and that’s my bad. I forgot about humidity. The Chayotes may eventually be drought tolerant, but at least initially, they need more water than I gave them last summer.
This spring, I plan on planting at least some of the Chayotes in containers by my back door. I’ll trellis them so they grow up instead of out. The container growing may constrict some fruit production, but I’m ok with that because I don’t need 80+ fruits that a typical plant can produce.
Of the four Chayotes that I had on my windowsill, one rotted completely and was discarded. The remaining three have bad skin and some rotten spots. Two of those three have sprouted despite the appearance of the main fruit. The third has done nothing.
Whether or not a Chayote sprouts is based on the age and size of the fruit. Typically, I try to find the biggest ones I can, because hopefully those are the oldest. I can find Chayote fruit here in Albuquerque at Pro’s Ranch Market, and sometimes at Smith’s Groceries. (I’m pretty sure I’ll never see them at Whole Foods because they are probably loaded with pesticides.)
The plan moving forward is to go buy some more fruit, in case the current ones give way to rotting. Since it’s still so early in the year, I’d like to get several sprouting so I have time to make up for any losses I suffer with them. Chayote growing seasons are long – about 150 days – hence my early start this season.
If you or someone you know has successfully grown Chayote, I’d love to hear the secrets of success. Or if you decide to grow Chayote for the first time this year, maybe we can create a support group. Let me know what you think about these ugly fruits!
Remember a couple of months ago when I started talking about chayotes? I’ve been slightly obsessed with them ever since.
Which is weird, because they’re ugly and you all know I like pretty things better.
See, they’re ugly:
A face only a mother could love!
I’d never seen a chayote before a couple of months ago. They’re in the gourd family, very similar to squash, native to Mexico.
Sandra asked if I’d experiment with growing them for her. She wanted to use them in her farmer’s frito pie that she sells at Albuquerque’s downtown growers’ market each summer (in an oriental take-out box, she layers lightly seasoned pinto beans, adds a layer of basmati rice seasoned with tumeric, then she pours her red chile calabacitas mix over the layers, adds a little cilantro, a dash of olive oil, sunflower seeds and if you’d like, Fritos. It’s vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, and it’s one of best breakfasts in town.)
She didn’t know how to grow them but she liked that they are a little more nutritious than traditional squash. They also held up better in her calabacitas. Regular squash has a tendency to fall apart, but chayote is sturdier.
That’s how my obsession began.
There’s not a lot of information about chayotes out there, but from what I gathered, the seed can only germinate inside the fruit. So planting from seed is not an option.
One helpful site suggested putting the fruit in a sunny window to make them sprout. Another suggested putting them in a dark spot to force them to sprout.
I decided to give the sunny window a shot.
I went to one of the Mexican grocery stores in town and bought a bunch of chayotes. Some to eat, some to sprout.
Here are two, back at the end of March:
Within just a few days, something started happening. The monster began to open his mouth.
Oh yeah, for sure something was happening now. You may want to scroll really fast through the following photos to get a feel for the drama:
What is it doing? What is it doing? I can’t stand the suspense!
Hey, wait a second. What’s happening now?
Where did all that gross stuff come from?
We definitely have a problem.
It was too early to plant it outside.
That fruit is getting uglier by the day.
This experiment isn’t really going so well.
That didn’t go well at all!
Luckily, I didn’t rely on only that one fruit. I also had these in a sunny window:
Within a couple of weeks, they looked like this:
And then there was this little champion:
Do that scroll fast thing again.
Go, chayote, go!
I experimented with five chayotes and each one was totally different. The one rotted, another sprouted a good six inches, one sprouted about 3 inches with several leaves, another did nothing, and the last one sprouted just a teeny bit.
I read that you should plant chayotes in pairs, so I planted four in the back yard along the fence. I’ll do a separate post about that. The fifth chayote was sent to live on Kitty’s farm, alongside one she sprouted.
The chayote has a long growing season, so Sandra won’t be able to use mine this season in her frito pie. But hopefully once they’re established, they’ll come back year after year.
While they’re outside growing, my kitchen windowsill is fabulously free of chayotes for the first time since late March.
Now I can concentrate more on eating the chayotes instead of sprouting them.