Chayote or thorny zucchini, benefits, recipes and tips – Italian Cuisine

Chayote, the thorny courgette that is good for health. Super versatile in the kitchen, excellent baked, fried and even raw, in salads or made into juice, let's find out together how to grow, clean, cook and love it

The chayote it is a vegetable native to South America, the native country seems to be Costa Rica, but it is grown in all the countries of the coastal area of ​​the continent and in the islands. In Italy it is known by the name of thorny courgette for the characteristic skin covered with thorns, a pointed shell under which an exotic fruit is hidden, from pear-like shape.

There climbing plant it resembles that of pumpkin and courgette, in fact it can be easily grown in the garden or in pots, even by the less experienced. It has a firm texture and is rich in juice, the sweetish-fresh taste it seems the combination of yellow melon, cucumber and potato.
Edible and healthy not only the vegetable, but also root and leaves, can reach up to 20 cm in length and is usually ready to eat when it turns deep green.

Chayote grown in the garden ready to be harvested.

Benefits and properties of chayote

It is made up of less than 5% of its volume from carbohydrates, ha less than 1% fat and proteins, and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Between vitamins I answer the appeal B, C, E and K in different proportions, while i minerals present are Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc in variable concentration.

There are numerous health benefits from consuming thorny zucchini. First of all the diuretic function, which helps keep the urinary tract healthy and well functioning, thanks to the efficient elimination of uric acid. A high level of uric acid in the body can cause various ailments such as gout. Has anti-inflammatory properties useful for reducing inflammation and pain, such as joint disorders, headaches, toothaches and neuralgia.

The high content of potassium it allows to regulate blood pressure, fundamental for the good functioning of the heart.
A remedy against the constipation, as it is rich in fiber and water regulates the intestine, guaranteeing healthy intestinal bacteria which act onexcellent functioning of the digestive system. Furthermore, the presence of fiber and the low fat content allow to maintain the level of cholesterol under control. The high concentration of water associated with good intestinal functioning produce beneficial effects even in those patients subject to hemorrhoids, obviously depends on the stage of the disorder, which if advanced requires specific treatments.

The chayote is also known as centennial courgette, a wonder for longevity and long life, thanks to the presence of powerful agents luteolin and apigenin anticancer, his antioxidant function gives benefits in the cancer prevention.
The chayote is a real contribution in the event of anemia (chronic iron deficiency), the folic acid contained in it is essential for the absorption of iron in the blood. Iron is the vital component of hemoglobin which helps the transfer of the oxygen molecule to various parts of the body. It is a cure-all for those suffering from diabetes, useful in reducing insulin resistance in the body.

It seems that even the leaves have beneficial properties, clean and made to go as tea, herbal tea or decoction, they help in case of kidney stones in the dissolution of the stone and in the subsequent expulsion. The chayote roots they are unexpectedly palatable, become edible after a few years of planting, and taste similar to sweet potato. Be careful to wash the roots well before cooking them.

Chayote leaves.

Super recommended even during the diet, for its low fat content and rich concentration of fiber that help you lose weight and keep your figure. It is recommended to take it during breastfeeding, in fact, it seems to act on the goodness and quality of breast milk thanks to the vitamins and mineral salts contained in it, however, excessive intake during pregnancy is not recommended.

How to grow chayote

Difficult to find on the market, but easy to grow, this is confirmed by the rich production of my cousin Enrico. For those who are not lucky enough to have a generous relative who grows chayote, they can follow his advice and set up their own plantation.

It may seem tricky, but to grow chayote you need a chayote, because the plant is generated from the fruit. Therefore first step you must get yourself a chayote, large and healthy, and store it in the dark at room temperature. In spring remove it from the pantry e leave it in the sun, taking care to bring it back indoors in the too cold night hours. After a couple of weeks it should begin to sprout when the Bud reaches 3-4 centimeters is the time to bury the chayote, leaving the shoot on the surface.

It is essential to make sure that the plant has enough space to climb, vertically or horizontally, the more space you give it, the more fruit it will give you and make sure that the tendrils do not cling to other plants, because they could "strangle" them and cause them to suffocate.

If you live in very hot regions, try not to plant it in an area exposed to full sun, in fact, in summer, the chayote suffers a lot from the heat and risks drying out, but watch out and do not water it too much, because stagnations would make the plant sick.
Around mid-September the first fruits should appear, but the right time for the collection it's at half October and beyond, when they have reached 10-15 centimeters in length and an intense green color. Once picked, it can be kept for several months if placed in the dark and at room temperature, a bit like potatoes, we can usually eat it until March.

Climbing chayote plant.

How to clean the chayote

The outer coating, as we have already reiterated, is a rough and thorny peel, which must be removed before consumption. It is essential to peel it carefully, providing yourself with gloves latex or, even better, gardening, as they are really pungent and the milky, sticky liquid they secrete when cut can cause itching and irritation. The recommended operation is that of cut the chayote in half and then into quarters, you will be able to remove the peel more easily, using a sharp knife, and deprive them of the central white seeds and everything that is more leathery to the touch. After cutting, immerse the thorny courgettes in cold water or under running water, drying them well before using them in various recipes. Let's see some of them!

Clean the chayote.

How to cook chayote

Thorny courgettes lend themselves to numerous preparations, excellent baked, fried, in oil and in desserts, surprising even raw, to be used in salads, as if they were cucumbers, or transformed into juices and centrifuged.

Baked spiny courgettes
The best way to cook them is in the oven, like potatoes. So after having them cut into wedges, immersed in water and dried (you will need about 5-6 for 4 people), place them in a large bowl and add spices and aromas as if it were raining, to your liking, I recommend: turmeric, paprika, chilli, garlic, thyme, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, fine and coarse salt, black pepper and various peppers. Dress with extra virgin olive oil and if you are fond of flavored oils have fun mixing garlic, basil and spicy oil. Mix well so that the thorny courgettes take on all the flavors and aromas, arrange them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake at 200 ° C for 50 minutes (preheated oven). Serve as a side dish for meat and fish based main courses.

Baked chayote.

Prickly courgette chips
They will literally be snapped up, you know, fried everything is good and the chayote is no exception. After having cut it and deprived of the peel, cut it a very thin slices with the help of a mandolin, if you are familiar with knives, go ahead. Dab the slices with absorbent paper to remove the excess water they are rich in, then pass each slice in the flour. For a more crunchy effect, you can use semolina flour mixed with corn flour and add the flavors you prefer. Fry in hot seed oil for a few seconds, just enough for them to brown, place on absorbent paper and add salt. For a healthier version you can prepare the zucchini chips in a preheated oven at 220 ° C for 30 minutes (in this case you can also already salt them). If you want them to be golden on both sides, you can turn them with a spatula and cook them for another 5 minutes in grill mode to make them even more crunchy. Remove from the oven and serve immediately, still hot, adding salt if needed.

Spiny courgettes in oil
An excellent idea to enjoy their goodness all year round is to keep them in a jar in oil. Then peel and cut into matchstick the thorny courgettes. Cook them in a pan with 1/2 liter of water and 1/2 liter of vinegar, for 8-10 minutes from boiling. Drain and spread them well spaced on clean tea towels, let them dry overnight. Sterilized jars and lids in a tall, large pot filled with boiling water. Dry and let the jars cool before putting the thorny courgettes in them. Pour them into jars and season them with oregano, chilli, a clove of garlic and a good seed oil. Be careful that the courgettes are completely immersed in oil, if necessary, equip yourself with the special protective plastic tamper for food use. Keep them in the dark in a cool place, for example the cellar or a pantry, let them flavor for at least 20 days and then they are ready to be enjoyed.

Prickly courgettes in salads
Thorny zucchini can also be eaten raw, to enrich and refresh seasonal salads. Cut them thin as if they were cucumbers and indulge yourself, they have a sweet and fresh flavor, but super delicate, so don't worry they will not override other ingredients and flavors you love.

Juices with thorny zucchini

As I am rich in water they are perfect for juices and smoothies, to be combined with other seasonal fruit such as pears or apples, which make your chayote-based drinks sweeter and more pleasant. We recommend using the extractor to extract all the juice from the fruit and reuse the waste pulp in homemade desserts such as donuts, cakes and muffins. Good fun!

Chayote in juice.

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