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At the end of summer, an unusual vegetable appears on the Black Sea markets. Although its appearance resembles a pear, nevertheless, they call it Mexican or Spanish cucumber, or chayote. Chayote's homeland is the tropical part of Mexico or Central America. He is known in Africa, in Spain, France. In Russia, he appeared more than a century ago.
Characteristic Mexican Cucumber
Chayote (Sechium edule) is grown in the subtropics of the Black Sea coast of Russia, Georgia and in the Krasnodar Territory. This perennial plant belongs to the pumpkin family, which is also evidenced by its name, originating from the Aztec word "shyot", which means "spiny pumpkin". But it also has tubers similar to many root crops.
Liana-like stalks of chayot can grow up to 10-20 meters, helping themselves with the antennae that are on its shoots. Fruits (most often pear-shaped) are dark green or yellow-green. They sometimes weigh more than a kilogram each, while reaching twenty centimeters in length. On average, up to 80 half-kilogram wrinkled, smooth or spiked "cucumbers" can be collected from a five-year bush. Inside them there is only one large yellowish non-rigid oblong bone. Their juicy and sweet flesh of pale green color is saturated with starch.
On the roots of the plant there may be a dozen tubers, with a total weight of up to 10 kg, having a color similar to the fruits. And their flesh is like a potato or a cucumber.
Rounded 10-25-cm leaves are pubescent with bristle hairs. Flowers are female and male. They are creamy or greenish.
The plant blooms from July to September, and its fruits are harvested until late autumn and even in December if there are no frosts. They are well preserved almost until the new crop. Tubers are dug up after harvesting.
The benefits of fruits and leaves
Mexican cucumber is used to treat many diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, with hemorrhoids, fibroids, fibromas, cancer, various male problems. These fruits also help cleanse the blood after a course of chemotherapy.
The diuretic properties of chayote leaves are used to treat hypertension and urolithiasis. A decoction of them reduces swelling.
Chayote is rich in amino acids, sugar, vitamins of groups B and P, as well as C, it contains a lot of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium. 6 more minerals are contained in it in microdoses sufficient for daily intake.
How to grow a chayote
The nutritional value
Mexican cucumber is a valuable food product, because almost all parts (except the stem) are edible in it. At the same time, its caloric content is very low - 19 kcal, which allows us to attribute it to dietary products, where there is very little fat, there are proteins, but carbohydrates prevail.
Here are some ways to use the plant:
- Boiled in salted water, the young shoots taste like asparagus. They are good in soups, side dishes, salads.
- Green leaves are used in salads. After the carcass, they serve as a side dish for meat and fish, from which they prepare stew and sauté.
- Chayot roots are suitable only for young plants.
- The tubers are very rich in starch (up to 25%), so after drying they are ground into valuable flour. Fried tubers taste like potatoes with mushrooms
- The unripe fruits of this plant can be combined with almost all vegetables, preparing combined puree or other dishes from them. The unobtrusive taste of chayote, combined with tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, onions, mushrooms, seasoned with hot spices, and with a lot of oil, creates a special taste harmony of popular Mexican dishes.
"Cucumbers" can be boiled, pickled, salted, fried, stewed, baked, stuffed. Soups, salads, side dishes, sauces, etc. are prepared from these vegetables.
In February-March, chayote is first grown in seedlings in central Russia. The whole fruit is placed in a pot or container, deepening it by 2/3 in the soil. Before that, it is saturated with organic fertilizers.
Mexican is transplanted into the open ground in late April - early June. The milder the climate, the sooner.
Sometimes it is planted directly in the soil, bypassing the preliminary germination in the container. For each plant, a plot of at least a square meter is isolated. The fruit is lowered into the ground obliquely, with a wide part down, digging in no more than a shovel on a bayonet.
Chayot roots do not like excess moisture, so the drainage should be at the planting site. You can not alternate the cultivation of chayote with pumpkin. It is better that his predecessors were potatoes, cabbage, onions.
Mandatory conditions for good plant growth are also:
- fertilizing the soil in each planting pit with mineral fertilizers (100-150 g) and rotted manure (5-6 kg);
- Considering that this plant behaves like a vine, stretching upwards by 10-20 meters, you need to take care of the support for it in advance (closely growing tree, high trellises, etc.);
- a strong wind is the enemy of the “Mexican”, it can completely destroy the crop of cucumbers hanging on a relatively thin leg. Therefore, the site for these plants should be protected from the winds and oriented to the south, where there is more sun;
- Chayot planting should be protected for the first time from possible frosts.
Features of cultivation and care
Plant care consists of:
- in periodic loosening of the soil so that a crust does not form on it;
- in irrigation with warm water at least every 10 days at the rate of 10 liters per plant;
- in dressing with mineral fertilizers and ten times diluted mullein, and watering and dressing plants can be combined;
- in pruning shoots. The Mexican cucumber needs a long period for full ripening, and in our conditions heat for it may not be enough. Therefore, in a young half-meter plant, pinch the top and remove the extra lateral shoots, leaving only 2-3 of them. Then, with a frequency of two weeks, the shoots that reappear in these places are cut off.
Rarely succeeds in successful wintering of the “Mexican” in the open ground, because its roots often die by getting wet. In conditions of an extremely mild winter, he can survive, but you need to take care of a good warming of the roots with straw, sawdust. And in the greenhouses, the chayote feels good, even if they are not heated.
You may also be interested in an article in which we talk about an apple-tomato.
Mexican cucumber is widely used in cooking. Here are some recipes for making it:
- Salad: "cucumber" is triturated, mixed with chopped dill and parsley, salted, seasoned with sour cream or mayonnaise. You can also add a boiled egg and a little grated garlic to it.
- Stuffed chayote. Pulp is taken out of the halves of the vegetable, cut into strips and passaged with onions and grated carrots. Then mixed with the same volume of minced meat, the resulting product is filled in the delayed halves of "cucumbers". They are baked in the oven.
- Mashed soup. First, fry the onion in vegetable oil. Chayote cut into slices, like a pear, and cook with onions, salt and pepper, for several minutes. Then grind it with a blender to a homogeneous mass, add a little cream. We eat soup hot.
- Chayote Canning. Coarsely chopped fruits are slightly held in cold water acidified with citric acid. Then we put them tightly in jars in several layers, alternating with spices - horseradish, parsley, garlic, dill, black pepper. To pour per liter of water you need 80 g of salt. The fill should not be hot. In brine, vegetables should stand under the lids for 2 weeks until the fermentation stops. Corked containers are stored in the cold.
How to make Chayote
A popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine - chayote, thanks to its many beneficial properties, is more and more distributed with us. Although it is not very easy to grow, the result will be impressive. This exotic will appeal to both demanding gourmets and those who follow their figure.