Step aside, zucchini. See you later, yellow squash. This unique, delicious, and versatile squash is our new go-to for creative culinary side dishes.
What are Chayotes?
Chayotes (pronounced chah-oh-tay) are members of the gourd family, cucurbits. They share a similar family tree with other notable ingredients such as pumpkins, zucchini, and cucumbers. Grown primarily in the tropical climates of Central and South America, chayotes are a fixture in Latin cuisine with occasional appearances in Cajun, Carribean, North African, and Southeast Asian dishes.
Chayotes are pear-like in shape and have a bright green exterior. The outer skin has a slight textured appearance that begins to pucker closer to the base. Depending on the variety, chayotes can even have an extremely wrinkled and bumpy skin (similar to bittermelon, another cucurbits cousin). The skin, flesh, and interior pit are all edible.
Flavor & Uses
Chayotes have a very mild flavor with a crisp-clean texture, similar to that of a cucumber. They can be found raw in salads and salsas, providing a bit of crunch, marinated, or pickled and served as a snack. Cooked, chayotes have the same culinary versatility as zucchini or yellow squash, and can be sauteed, baked, roasted, fried, or steamed.
Where to find Chayotes
Speciality grocers, especially those specializing in Latin ingredients, will most likely have a supply of chayote. Gourmet grocers with a large produce section may, on occasion, carry chayote seasonally (winter i when they are most abundant). When selecting your chayote, check for firmness and avoid any that are soft or have extensive bruising. Whole chayotes should keep, refrigerated, for up to 4 weeks.