Friday, June 5, 2009

Guanajuato, Mexico Food: Chayote

Another vegetable with which we were unfamiliar upon our arrival in Guanajuato was the chayote (chah-YOH-teh). When we first saw it stacked at our local market, we thought it was a fruit because it looked like a green, wrinkled pear. The chayote belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, cucumber and melons. Interestingly, another name for the chayote is vegetable pear, so we weren't completely wrong when we thought at first it was a type of pear.

Most of the chayotes sold in Mexico are grown in the state of Veracruz, which exports them to the USA as well. Most of the rest of the world's chayotes come from Costa Rica.

Chayotes form a large part of the Central American diet and are quite popular in Mexico as well. They are about the size and shape of pear with a thin, wrinkled green peel, white flesh, and a single seed. Some people remove the peel and the seed before eating, but both are edible. The flesh is fairly bland and has a texture between that of potato and zucchini. It can be eaten raw or cooked.

Chayote is very versatile. In its raw form, it can be used in place of all or part of the potatoes in potato salad, added to tossed vegetable salads, or served alone with any dressing. It can be steamed, boiled, sautéed, or baked.

I use it in recipes that call for zucchini. Sometimes I use chayote instead of zucchini, but I often use a mixture of the two. I include chayote in salads, soups, stews, and meat dishes that include vegetables.

One of our favorite fish dishes calls for zucchini slices to be sautéed with onions, carrots, and tomatoes. The fish filets are placed on top of the sautéed vegetables, then covered with tomato sauce and cooked until the fish turns white and flakes easily with a fork. I usually add a diced chayote to the other vegetables. While chayote tastes similar to zucchini, it has a different, starchier texture that changes the dish a bit.

1 cup of chopped chayote has 25 calories, 2 grams of dietary fiber, and no fat. It also provides 17% of the RDA for Vitamin C and 31% of the RDA for folic acid (Vitamin B9). It is a good source of manganese, copper, and zinc.


A Walk Through Mexico's Crown Jewel: A Guanajuato Travelogue

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