Scientific Name: Sechium edule
The Chayote or Chu-chu as it is commonly known in South Africa, is an edible plant which belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae along with melons, cucumbers and squash.
The Chu-Chu is a tuberous rooted perennial vine with shallow lobed, broad triangulate leaves and it produces small greenish white male and female blossoms. This is followed by fruits that are roughly pear shaped and flattened, with coarse wrinkles, white or light green flesh and a single large flattened pip. The Chu-Chu clings with tendrils and needs trellises, fences or trees to scramble on where its large leaves will form a canopy over the fruit.
In warm areas the Chu-Chu is a perennial, but the vines should be cut back to 2m before new growth begins in spring. In very cold areas frost will kill it to the ground. It will grow out again in spring - provided you mulch the roots before the first cold.
The Chu-Chu needs a long, warm growing season — at least five or six months - and by growing more than one Chu-Chu vine you should improve pollination and receive more fruit. It needs full sun and must be watered well throughout the growing season. The vine will bear fruit for 3-5 years.
The Chu-Chu vine originated in South America. No archaeological evidence indicates how long it has been cultivated by man. Evidence of the plant’s existence was first recorded in 1756. It has been cultivated in Mexico since pre-Columbian times.
Harvest and parts used
The root stems, leaves, fruit and seeds can be used either culinary or medicinally.
The nutrition value of 1x200g medium chu-chu fruit is as follows:
It has 50 calories and is a good source of
- Vitamin C
- and amino acid.
The root stems and leaves are edible. The seeds have a nutty flavor and may be eaten as part of the fruit.
The Chu-Chu can be eaten raw or cooked.
It can be boiled, baked, stuffed, mashed, fried or pickled.
You can cook it either sweet with sugar, butter and a little ginger or cinnamon, or savory with onion and potato, or even curry.
Very young Chu-Chu fruit can be eaten in their entirety — but it is best to peel older more mature fruit. Slice through the folds between the ridges and then use a vegetable peeler on the remaining skin. Cube it for frying or use in soups. Cut the Chu-Chu in half, lay the cut sides down, bake it like a winter squash and serve with butter. Peel, cube and blanch it for freezing. The Chu-Chu will retain its crispiness after cooking.
The Chu-Chu has diuretic, cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory properties.
A tea made from Chu-Chu leaves can be taken for hypertension, arteriosclerosis, or cardiovascular problems (tested in modern studies) and to dissolve kidney stones.
A tea made from the Chu-Chu fruit, is used to alleviate water retention and it has been used since colonial times, for curing kidney diseases.
Of interest is the fact that the Chu-Chu plant has remarkable cell regenerative properties — if the fruit is stung by a fruit fly, it will heal itself — unlike other fruit, and especially other curcubits, which will rot. Urban legend has it that Chu-chu caused the mummification of people from the Columbian town of San Bernarde, who over-consumed Chu-Chu. Their very well preserved skin and flesh can be seen in the mummies found in this region.
Chu-Chu makes an excellent animal feed for poultry.