For years I passed by the green wrinkled and furrowed looking plant at our local fruit and vegetable market. That is not unusual as there are many plants in Colombia I am still trying to learn. The sign in front of this particular one said, guatila. It was only because of a mention by my sister-in-law that I finally stopped and took closer notice.
First question was to my wife. “Never used it and have no idea how to cook it,” she said in response to my question. I purchased one anyway since the cost was about 75 cents USD.
My education began with asking local Colombians about recipes. Then I progressed to Internet searches. The first thing was the name. When calling the fruit by what the sign said, Guatila, I initially received some blank stares. Seems that this member of the gourd family is also called in Colombia as christophene, christophine, cho-cho, cidra and guatila. Though native to Mesoamerica the fruit is now grown around the world and goes by many more names. The Spanish are said to cal it chayote from an Aztec name for the plant.
How to use it became my next question. Should it be eaten with the skin on or not? Most people recommended that I peel it. However, caution was given that a secretion from peeling could numb fingers. My first use in a recipe was cutting into cubes and to saute it in a skillet with pepper before adding to a stir-fry. Since then my research shows it can be used raw in salads and even microwaved with onions, butter, salt and pepper for an addition to a meal. The Latin Kitchen wrote about How to Prepare Chayote. There are also many other recipes available by searching the Internet.
But why should I eat it came to my mind. This cousin of the cucumber is high in vitamin C. Health sites tout it as useful for lowering blood pressure, keeping the thyroid healthy, dissolving kidney stones and as an anti-inflammatory.
Growing of the fruit seems to not be too difficult if you live in an area that never freezes. And if your climate maintains a temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit all the better. Asian Garden to Table has an excellent YouTube video titled: How to grow Chayote from Fruit to Fruits.
The most amazing story comes from San Bernardo, Colombia. My wife and I are now planning a trip to the small town. According to a Wall Street Journal article eating of too much chayote may be the reason why many of the town residents mummified. Those residents are on display in glass cases.
The guatila is now a staple in my kitchen.