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Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Ever heard of Chayote (Sechium edule) – you have eaten it !!

 Ever heard of Chayote (Sechium edule) – you have eaten it !! 

Are you a connoisseur of food ! – how good is your culinary skills – can you identify this (popular!) vegetable !! without seeing the photos and reading the post in full with just the clues ? 

Lal Bagh is a famous botanical garden in southern Bangalore.  Besides so many trees and a big lake it houses a famous glass house that  hosts an annual flower show. Lal Bagh houses India’s largest collection of tropical plants.  The foundation stone for the Glass House, modelled on London’s Crystal Palace was laid  in 1890s  by Prince Albert Victor and was built by James Cameron, the then superintendent of Lalbagh. 

Now the Qs on the so called Vegetable !  -  In Australia, a persistent urban legend was  that McDonald's apple pies were made of chokos !?!, not apples. This eventually led McDonald's to emphasise the fact that real apples are used in their pies. 

Chayote (Sechium edule), also known as mirliton and choko, is an edible plant belonging to the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae. This fruit was first cultivated in Mesoamerica between southern Mexico and Honduras, with the most genetic diversity available in both Mexico and Guatemala.  It is one of several foods introduced to the Old World during the Columbian Exchange. At that time, the plant spread to other parts of the Americas, ultimately causing it to be integrated into the cuisine of many Latin American nations.  Have you identified this by now – for sure, you have eaten this many a times !

                                                                                             The chayote fruit is mostly used cooked. When cooked, chayote is usually handled like summer squash; it is generally lightly cooked to retain the crispy consistency. Raw chayote may be added to salads or salsas, most often marinated with lemon or lime juice, but is often regarded as unpalatable and tough in texture. Whether raw or cooked, chayote is a good source of vitamin C.  Although most people are familiar only with the fruit as being edible, the root, stem, seeds and leaves are edible as well. The tubers of the plant are eaten like potatoes and other root vegetables, while the shoots and leaves are often consumed in salads and stir fries, especially in Asia.


If you have not guessed it right still now – here is a photo of what is called as ‘Bangalore Kathirikkai !’ or Chow-chow.  Chow Chow belongs to the squash family.  In Tamil Nadu, we make koottu of most gourds  - with chow-chow, we make vegetable curry, koottu  or a thuvaiyal and call them a delicacy.   

The fruit goes by many English-language names around the world. The common American English name of the fruit is from the Spanish word chayote,  which is also used in Puerto Rico.  In Louisiana  and Haiti it is   mirliton or merleton in the United Kingdom.  In Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, it is known as choko !  In China, it is referred to as foshugua, meaning "Buddha's palms melon". 

It is by no stretch of imagination a brinjal and one may wonder it suffixed to Bengaluru !  - it is not a vegetable but a fruit but in India we prepare dishes treating it as a vegetable.  It did not originate in India but is associated with the capital of Karnataka.   


The foundation stone for  glass house of Lalbagh was laid  by  Prince Albert Victor, heir to the Prince of Wales and was called the Albert Victor Conservatory, but now known as the Glass House. The man behind the idea of the Glass House was John Cameron, Superintendent of Lalbagh. Cameron had a background in botany and had trained at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, then the centre of botanical research in the world.  Lalbagh’s first known plant census, done in 1861, recorded 1033 species. In the first six years that he took charge of Lalbagh, Cameron managed to introduce an average of 160 new plants every year, it is believed that Cameron introduced chow-chow and now we know it as Bengaluru Brinjal.
Interesting !
With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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