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!

A SPROUT!

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.

Pretty disgusting.

This experiment isn’t really going so well.

Oh dear.

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.

Shew!

Now I can concentrate more on eating the chayotes instead of sprouting them.