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Fall Ingredient Essentials: Chayote

A staple of the Aztecs, chayote is a starchy squash that is crisp with a mild flavor. Known by many names including the vegetable pear, chochogayota, and papa del aire, chayote is enjoyed the world over because it's both tasty and nutritious. Chayote delivers a multitude of minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins, is low-calorie (clocking in at just 25 calories per cup), and is a rich source of fiber. Whether spiky or smooth, it’s easy to understand why chayotes are staples in a Latin kitchen.

How do I pick the best chayote?

When choosing chayote at the market, first look at the skin. The fruit should be small and wrinkle free with no bruising, cuts, or soft spots. Select a chayote with a uniform, bright green skin that is firm to the touch. An old chayote will become wrinkled, have reddish-brown spots as well as soft spots, so if you find one like this put it back and continue your search for a prime pick.

What can I make with chayote?

Young chayotes can be eaten raw, sliced thin and added to sandwiches, or chopped up and tossed into a salad. For chayotes that are a bit older, chop into slices and add to a stir-fry, bake up a casserole, steam and drizzle with lemon juice and fresh cracked black pepper or roast, puree, and enjoy as a soup! Treat your chayote as you would your summer squash to further enhance the recipe possibilities.

The best way to prepare a chayote is to slice it in half lengthwise, and then again. You will be left with 4 spears. Cut into each spear on an angle to remove the seed. Discard the seed then chop, slice, and dice to your hearts content. For an older chayote with a thicker skin or a prickly chayote, first peel off the skin. But beware: once the skin is pierced, the chayote exudes a sticky substance that irritate your skin. So it's best to do this step under running water or while using gloves. Then, chop, dice, and slice as normal.

Storage? Chayotes do best in the refrigerator, stored in a loose fitting plastic bag in high humidity conditions. A chayote that has been stored properly can last up to two weeks in the fridge. Cut, raw chayote, on the other hand, should be used in a day or two since it absorbs the flavors and aromas from the fridge. Blanched chayote can be packed in a freezer safe zip lock bag and will remain fresh for up to six months. Buy in bulk and enjoy the light and sweet flavor of chayote throughout the fall and winter seasons!

Next, head into the kitchen with these three chayote recipes...

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