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Chayote in summary :
Latin name : Sechium edule
Common names : Chayotte, christophine, darling
Family : Cucurbits
Type : Deciduous perennial
Height : 2 to 5 m
Planting distance : 1 m
Exposure : Sunny
Ground : rich in humus, loose
Planting : February
Harvest : End of September, October
The chayote is a climbing perennial plant of which we can consume all the parts and more particularly its pear-shaped fruits. Originally from Mexico, it was then introduced to many countries such as the West Indies where it is called "christophine", Or Reunion where it bears the name of"pet". Used to hot climates, she is little rustic. However, it is quite possible to cultivate it in our regions by respecting a few rules.
To cultivate chayote, certain conditions must be respected:
- a sunny exposure;
- in regions with severe winters, it should be possible to protected from the cold;
- the earth must be humus (rich in organic matter) and processed in depth.
You will understand, whether in a vegetable patch or in your garden, you will have to make some preparations before thinking about planting a foot of christophine.
In order for your soil to be sufficiently fertile and contain enough humus, you will need to carry out a amendment. To do this you will need to:
- Place manure or well-rotted compost on the surface the fall before planting. You can also add ash if you have it.
- Using a fork and spade, turn the soil over deeply, in order to mix all the elements together. It is better to avoid using a spade, in order to disturb the underground fauna as little as possible, especially earthworms.
- The following spring, just before transplanting, rework the soil slightly.
The first stage of planting is to be carried out in February. It consists of bringing a large pot filled with potting soil and install a whole fruit horizontally. It must be buried over two thirds of its height. Then place the pot in a bright space and especially away from cold and frost.
The christophine in the ground:
When you have obtained a vigorous plant, you can transplant in the ground from the month of May (preferably after the Ice Saints). Frosts will then no longer be to be feared.
Once the foot is replanted, consider installing a trellis high and strong enough to support the mass of foliage and fruit to come.
Chayote in a pot:
The growing conditions of chayote contraindicate it for a container plantation. However, if you have a veranda or a shelter protected from the cold (such as a greenhouse), it is possible to do so. However, you will need to obtain a sufficient pot or bin. bulky to support roots and foliage.
Culture and maintenance
Chayote does not require a lot of maintenance. Sensitive to drought, it must however be watered regularly and abundantly.
It is not necessary to prune the christophine. However, to densify the foliage at the start of growth, you can do a pinching (one cut) on young plants above 3 or 4 leaves.
Smart tip : apply a thick mulch at the foot of your chayote. It will have the double advantage of limiting the loss of water by evaporation in summer and of protecting the base from frost in winter.
Diseases and pests:
The christophine is a plant resistant. It does not seem prone to disease, and pests or parasites do not seem to attack it.
Harvest and conservation of christophine
Chayote fruits appear late (September). The harvest is therefore carried out in October even November if weather conditions allow.
Once picked, the fruits keep a long time. Stored in a cool place, they can be eaten several months after harvest.
Chayote in the kitchen
Like tuberous nasturtium, all parts of christophine are edible:
- the young spring shoots are eaten like asparagus;
- the juvenile leaves can be cooked like vegetables (a bit like spinach);
- the fruits are eaten both raw (in salads) and cooked (plain, gratin, stuffed, etc.);
- the tubers, meanwhile, are prepared like potatoes.