We grow Chayote (or Chayotte) for its eponymous pear-shaped fruit, fleshy and edible, whose appearance evokes quince or a very large bumpy pear. It’s a kernel bay which measures at least 10 to 12 cm long. Chayote is a plant of the family of Cucurbits, originally from Mexico among others. This perennial that we call Christophine because it was brought to the West Indies by Christopher Columbus has a stem that can also be eaten. As for its root, it cooks like fries. Here are the tips to follow to plant and maintain Chayote, named according to the regions of the world sousou, mirliton, choko, chouchoute or darling.
Plant Christophine or Chayote
La Chayote (Sechium edule) love them fresh soils, furniture, deep and rich in manure. She mainly likes sunny exposure and sheltered from prevailing winds.
This exotic liana of a beautiful vigor particularly appreciates the hot climates. Under excellent growing conditions, she can produce stems that reach 5-6 meters in a matter of months. We can therefore cultivate Chayote for its fruits but also for the shade that it creates very quickly.
Be careful, however, of extremes in terms of temperature. From 28 ° C, the flowers fall and this can also concern the fruits already formed but far from having reached their full maturity. At the same time, high temperatures considerably favor the growth of leaves and vine stems. It can be a bias if one wishes to cultivate only Christophine to vegetate a terrace exposed full south and that one is completely uninterested in its fruits.
Germinate the fruit of the Chayote at the end of winter, by installing it in a pot containing a very humus substrate which must also cover the fruit to a thickness of 10 to 12 cm. We keep the pot indoors near a bay window, a large window or even in a veranda or greenhouse. Light is essential as is heat and regular watering.
The plantation in full Earth of Chayote or Christophine fruit after germination takes place as soon as the risk of frost is no longer to be feared. It is advisable to let the Ice Saints pass, that is to say on May 11, 12 and 13. It is therefore directly the fruit that we plant, points to the sky. It should not be peeled or pitted.
This plant is able to climb along a pergola installed on a sunny terrace, or any other support such as wire mesh, trellis, commercial or homemade, which it is essential to install from the planting in order to that the plant can hang on to it thanks to its tendrils. It is indeed a climbing that quickly grows.
In our latitudes, the Chayote is grown in the ground as an annual or in a pot rather as a perennial. In the latter case, it can be wintered and then taken out in fine weather, a ritual which can then be repeated from year to year. People who do not have a garden but only a balcony, can therefore rejoice. For a container culture, you just have to respect the following points:
- Water it very regularly because the substrate in a tank dries faster than the soil in a vegetable garden,
- Install a mulch to a thickness of at least 6 cm in order to limit the evaporation process. Thus, the earth or the substrate retains a good freshness absolutely essential to this climbing plant with twining lianas.
Of course, care is taken to prick stakes in the tank in order to allow the Christophine to climb.
Maintain a Christophine
It is quite possible to leave the stump of a Chouchou in the ground even during the winter as long as you take care to protect it from the cold by a thick mulch (10 to 12 cm) associated, why not, with a wintering veil.
Waterings must be sufficient copious, and even more to compensate for the strong summer heat like periods of drought. La Chayote is a water lover.
We do not hesitate to make a add compost during the growing season. But when planting, each foot of Chayote needs 2.8 to 3.2 kg of compost.
This only concerns specimens that you want to grow in a pot, on the balcony or on the terrace. After germination of the fruit, do not hesitate to transplant each plant into a sufficiently large bin, with a capacity of at least 15 to 18 liters.
This twining plant cannot be pruned.
Protect from the cold
In many of our regions, the aerial parts of the Chayote – little hardy plant – freeze from first frost. It is not extremely serious when you have anticipated by protecting the roots of the plant early enough. Well sheltered under a thick mulch of 15 cm if necessary, they are unlikely to succumb to -6 or -7 ° C, provided it is not daily. But if we fear that Christophine does not support the harshness of the local climate, it is better to take the foot out of the ground to winter it inside, in a pot containing soil that we keep moist.
You just have to wait for the return of spring to reinstall the Chayote in the garden after having fertilized the soil well.
It is really interesting to cultivate famous mirlitons since they are not susceptible to pests or diseases. They don’t fear so nothing, which eliminates having to deal with everything.
If you take care of your plants, a single plant can produce at least 40 to 50 fruits, or even 80 after a few years, the average weight of which per unit is still 750 g (knowing that a chayote can weigh 2 kg)! Harvesting the fruits of Christophine must be done at the right time. It takes place at the very end of October or early November (sometimes during September). For the less curious in France, this fruit is appreciated for its great taste of zucchini.
Judging its maturity is quite easy: you only need to exert moderate pressure on the fruit with a fingernail without this being able to mark the skin. In other words, when its skin is thick enough, Chayote can be picked.
It is also fundamental toharvest before the first fall frosts because this exotic plant is a chilly one. The flesh of the fruit spoils as soon as the temperatures drop. It is therefore necessary to protect the product of its harvest before the mercury goes into the negatives.
However, there is no point in rushing because picked too early, the chayotes have a soft flesh and it is impossible to keep them for a long time. It is also not advisable to miss the mark because there is a risk of not appreciating the consistency of their overripe flesh or the fact that it has become stringy.
However, in certain French regions in harsh climate, it is absolutely necessary to harvest everything at once, although not all of the fruits have reached a perfect degree of ripeness. In this case, it is necessary to organize its consumption by starting with the less ripe which will not keep for long. Those who have ripened to perfection and are not damaged will keep for several months, as is the case with many other cucurbits, in a clean, dry room where the ambient temperature is stable, around 10 ° C.
At harvest time, do not hesitate to put some chayotes aside, in order to dedicate them to planting the following spring. It is the kernel that will draw nutrients from the flesh, its germination taking place within the fruit itself. A chayote can therefore be planted as it is in May, when the spring sun has already warmed the earth.