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  • Writer's pictureThe Clayton Farm

Chayote Shoots or Dragon Whiskers - A funny-looking vegetable

Chayote, In recent years, local production of leafy greens like chayote is surging, likely because people are trying to eat more healthily. Chayote vine is widely cultivated in Asia as a summer vegetable. Chayote is a native of Central and South America where it has long been cultivated for its pear-shaped gourd. The gourd is now used in the food of many nations, its robust growth allowing it to adapt well to many climates. Its ability to withstand torrid summers with minimal supervision has made it popular, though it is primarily cultivated for its vines among the Asian gardeners, which is notable for the curly tendrils that have earned them the name dragon whiskers vegetable (龍鬚菜).

Besides what can be done with the gourd, the vine, which is rather bland in flavor. Its main culinary appeal is in its crisp texture. The leaves are firm and shaped like miniature maple leaves. Tender shoots can be cooked without further preparation. Chayote vines are most often stir-fried, usually with pork.

Another popular preparation is to blanch chayote vine in boiling water for a couple of minutes then shock them in ice before seasoning with sesame oil and white sesame seeds. Served cold, you can really bring the vegetable’s texture to the fore, and a plate of tender shoots makes for an excellent side dish for a summer meal.

Chayote vine is popular as a low-maintenance vegetable to grow and thrives without or with minimal aid of fertilizers and pesticides. In the summer months, when many other green vegetables are not quite in season, chayote seems to thrive. When prices for spinach, bok choy, or other conventional veggies are skyrocketing, and possibly are filthy with chemical residue, chayote vine is a great option for keeping greens on the table.

While not highly prized, it is much praised for its health benefits, with much local food and health Web sites lauding its antioxidant qualities and listing it among the best foods to prevent cancer. It is very high in dietary fiber.

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