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Chayote (photo courtesy of Sarl Akene [Photos Lamontagne]/Garden Picture Library/Photolibrary)
Chayote (photo courtesy of Sarl Akene [Photos Lamontagne]/Garden Picture Library/Photolibrary)

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Zones 14-16, 19-24, H1, H2
Full Sun
Regular Water


Annuals, Edible fruit, Perennials, Vines

Native to central Mexico, chayote (Sechium edule) plants look like related squashes, though their flowers are inconspicuous. Each vine can grow 20–30 ft. in the first year, 40–50 ft. in the second. Fruit is 3–8 in. long, green or yellow-green, irregularly oval, grooved, with a large edible seed surrounded by meaty flesh. Eat young fruit raw or cooked (tastes like summer squash); boil or bake mature fruit. Large, fleshy tuberous roots can also be eaten, but at the cost of the plant.

You can start plants from fruit sold in stores (check Latino markets). Buy in fall and let the fruit sprout in a cupboard; then plant in rich soil next to a fence or trellis, which it will climb by tendrils. Set fruit in the ground edgewise and slanted, with the sprouted end at the lowest point, narrow end exposed. If the shoot is long, cut it back to 1–2 in. In mild climates, plant in late winter; in areas where roots may freeze, pot in a 5-gal. container and store in a dark, cool spot until frost danger is past. Tops die down in frost. Bloom starts when day length shortens in fall; fruit is ripe within a month.

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