Discover the Tropical Cucurbitaceae: Chayote or Christophine

GardenBy Jul 06, 2024

Discover the Tropical Cucurbitaceae: Chayote or Christophine

The chayote, also known as christophine in the French Antilles and in Guyana, is a perennial herbaceous plant native to the tropical zone around Mexico. The Aztecs were already cultivating it a long time ago. It belongs to the large family of Cucurbitaceae.

The chayote goes by different names depending on the country where it is grown. It is called chouchou in Réunion and Mauritius, chouchoute in New Caledonia and French Polynesia, sosoty in Madagascar, and mirliton in Haiti!

This tuberous perennial plant is not frost hardy, which makes it grown as an annual in mainland France where winters can be cold.

The chayote, with its common or climbing exotic squash, has vines that can reach 5 meters in length or even more. Its evergreen leaves, measuring 10 to 15 cm long in its original environment, are oval-shaped and have 3 to 5 angular lobes.

In late spring, small unisexual flowers appear in the leaf axils of this monoecious plant, meaning it has separate male and female flowers on the same plant. After pollination, these flowers, which are pale yellow or greenish white, will later give birth to fruits.

The fruit, called the chayote, surprises with its pear-like shape, using that shape to distract from its botanical nature as a berry. It reaches maturity in autumn and can be green or white-yellowish in color. The chayote has a tightly-adhering core to the flesh, which is a viviparous seed, meaning it germinates inside the fruit.

The chayote can be eaten raw or cooked; it can be baked, steamed, mashed, fried, or used in a gratin, for example, similar to how zucchini is prepared. The young shoots can also be enjoyed in a vinaigrette.

With only 20 kcal/100g, chayote is low in calories but rich in fiber, vitamin C, zinc, potassium, and antioxidants. It has diuretic properties.

  • Family: Cucurbitaceae
  • Type: Perennial vegetable fruit grown as an annual
  • Origin: Mexico and Central America
  • Color: Green or white-yellowish fruit
  • Sowing: Yes
  • Cutting: No
  • Planting: Spring
  • Harvest: October-November
  • Height: Up to 5 meters long

Suitable Soil and Exposure for Growing Chayote in the Vegetable Garden

Chayote thrives in well-cultivated soil that is light, moist, rich in organic matter, and well-drained. It prefers a warm and sunny exposure, typical of Mediterranean climates.

Sowing and Planting Date for Chayote

Chayote is not sown from seeds but can be planted by burying a fruit, which can be purchased, for example, in the market. Plant the fruit halfway on its long side, in a pot filled with potting soil, and keep it warm, frost-free (15-18°C), until mid-May when the last frost has passed. Water it regularly, and once it germinates, it will start growing. Provide a small support and prune it to encourage branching.

Once the risk of frost has passed, typically around mid-May, you can plant the chayote in its designated spot, ideally against a south-facing wall. It will cling to its support with its tendrils. While it can be grown as a creeper, it takes up a lot of space, so trellising is preferable.

Tips for Maintaining and Cultivating Chayote

Moderate but regular watering is necessary, along with mulching around the base to keep the soil moist.

Help with regular trellising of the vines, as they grow quite fast.

Harvesting, Storing, and Using Chayote

Chayotes mature and are ready for harvest in the autumn before the first frost, typically around October-November. They should not be harvested too early or too late, as it affects their taste. To check for ripeness, press your nail on the skin; it should not leave a mark.

Each plant can produce 10 to 15 kg of fruits! They can be stored throughout the winter in a cool, well-ventilated, frost-free place (around 10°C), spread on shelves.

Diseases, Pests, and Parasites of Chayote

Chayote is not susceptible to any specific diseases or attacks from pests or parasites.

Optimal Location and Favorable Companions for Chayote

Chayote starts its growth in a pot but can be transferred to the ground, trained on a trellis, where it can become a beautiful climbing plant with its twining vines.

Since it takes up very little ground space, it can be grown alongside other vegetable crops without any problems.

Recommended Species and Varieties of Chayote for Garden Planting

The Sechium genus includes around ten species, but the most common one is the chayote (Sechium edule). Sechium compositum, native to Mexico and Guatemala, is quite similar to it.

There are no specific varieties of Sechium edule, but you can find chayotes with green or white skin.

Rate this post


I'm Jennifer. My hands are often covered in soil, and my heart is full of passion for nature. Through my writings, I share my personal gardening journeys, tips, and the joy of cultivating both plants and a community of fellow garden lovers. Every plant I grow adds a story to my life, and I love sharing those tales with my readers.