Sayote – Chayote, Christophene, Mirliton, vegetable pear, whatever name you call it, this vegetable is a member of the cucurbit family. The fruit is light green in color and pear shaped and has ridges. When you peel and cut the fruit open in half, you will find that it has a sticky sap and will stay in your hands for a couple of hours, it is hard to remove so you might want to use gloves when preparing them. The fruit has a seed that ultimately will grow even if it is still in the vine. It will bear small white flowers that are pollinated by bees. The young leaves are also edible. I remember my mom would steam the young shoots and make a salad with tomatoes and onions then season with salt and vinegar with a little bit of sugar.
Before planting sayote, the ground must be prepared. It needs to be amended with compost and also incorporate some sand to improve drainage. The garden site should be in full sun. And because it grows on a vine, you must build a trellis or plant it close to a fence where the vigorous plant will have a chance to hold unto. The seed is from the fruit itself which has matured, you will know that because there would be a green growth coming out of the broad end of the fruit. The plant will be growing vigorously so it is the best time to take advantage of cutting the young shoots and use them for salads or soups, or maybe stir fries. Flowers will begin to emerge in about a month or so and then small pear-like, light green fruits will show. Wait till it is about three to four inches in length before gathering. The fruit will last about two to three days in the refrigerator.
It is best to use sayote the same day you gather not only to take advantage of the freshness, but also because you will be gathering more and more everyday as long as it is being watered regularly. There are lots of uses for the fruit. My mom uses it for tinola, a soup dish made of chicken with ginger, garlic and onion and any type of leaves like chili pepper leaves, spinach, malunggay leaves or whatever is available in your garden and sayote of course. You may substitute green papaya for it. You can also use it for stir fry, as one of the vegetables for pancit, or just by itself, julienne cut and sauteed’ with pork and shrimp garlic, onions and tomatoes. It is also one of the ingredients we use in making vegetable lumpia, fresh or fried.
There is no known medicinal uses for sayote but it is high in folic acid, vitamin C, and a good source of fiber and zinc, calcium and magnesium.