Chayote squash is a little, lesser known squash that originates from South America and Mexico. It has a green peel and is white on the inside. It is a super versatile squash and can be prepared many ways, including soups, pan-fried dishes, complex main dishes, salads, salsa, pickles, stews, tacos and enchiladas. Whew, that list features a wide array of flavor profiles. This squash can almost be used in any dish — whether it is the star or takes a supporting role. In California, Florida and Louisiana it is known as mirliton, but is known by many other names in different parts of the world. It is a Cajun favorite for the holidays.
One cup of chayote squash provides 25 calories, loads of vitamins B & C, dietary fiber, potassium, copper, and magnesium. It has a hint of cucumber to apple hints in its flavor and tends to take on the flavor profile of whatever it’s cooked with. You can choose to peel it or not, but the skin can be a little tough, so it might depend on how you plan to use it. If you are unsure, you can peel it before or after cooking. You can also eat the seeds in the middle as well.
Chayote squash tends to blend well with strong flavors like lemon, other citruses, cinnamon, and nutmeg. When choosing a chayote squash, choose it small and firm but not too firm. Avoid squash that is blemished, sticky or discolored. It also holds up well to being stored in the refrigerator for up to four weeks in a loose plastic bag with a paper towel in it.
Much like zoodles (zucchini noodles), it can be a base for a main dish when finely julienned. It isn’t long like spaghetti noodles, but makes a healthy substitute for people wanting to add more vegetables into their meals.
Here are more ideas for preparing chayote squash. You can saute slices of chayote much like you would with zucchini using a dab of butter, salt, pepper and a tad of lemon juice or zest added to help pop the flavor. You can cook it to soften it up and then puree it into soups or leave it diced it for stews. It can be julienned for salads and dressed with vinaigrettes. It can be diced small, seasoned and put on tacos, in relishes and salsas. It can also be added to cheesy dishes like enchiladas, or shredded and layered with other Mexican flavors in a baked dish. It can also be halved and baked much like some of the heartier squashes. In Louisiana it is stuffed with seafood, typically shrimp, and other vegetables with Cajun spices for a popular holiday dish.
The choices are many, so I hope you will try some when you find them in your local markets. Their season stretches from fall into spring, thus making a great winter choice when other fresh vegetables fade out from our farmers markets.
For additional chayote squash recipes and serving suggestions, check out Chef Scotty’s Market Fresh Recipes at http://ext100.wsu.edu/clark/?p=8163. The FINI program provides help to SNAP consumers to purchase more fruits and vegetables at local farmer markets. Find out more at www.clark.wa.gov/public-health/snap-farmers-markets.
Carolyn Heniges is a Clark County WSU Extension master food preserver. For additional recipes, food preservation and food safety information visit http://ext100.wsu.edu/clark/?p=1134. Have questions? Call MFP Helpline: 360-397-6060 ext. 5366, or join Facebook Discussion Group “WSU Home Food Preservers – Clark County.”