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chayote

Pronunciation: [chi-OH-tay]

Once the principal food of the Aztecs and Mayas, this gourdlike fruit is about the size and shape of a very large pear. Beneath its furrowed, pale green skin is a white, rather bland-tasting flesh surrounding one soft seed. In the United States, chayote is grown in several states including California, Florida and Louisiana (where it's known as mirliton). Chayotes are widely available from September through May, but can be found throughout the year in Asian, Caribbean and Latin American markets as well as some produce markets. Look for those that are small, firm and unblemished. Refrigerate in a plastic bag up to a month. Chayotes can be prepared in any way suitable for summer squash. It can also be split, stuffed and baked like acorn squash, or used raw in salad. Because of its mild flavor it requires assertive seasoning. Chayote is known by many names around the world—chocho in Brazil, chocho and choko in the French Caribbean, christophene in France, custard marrow in Britain, xuxu in Vietnam and vegetable pear and mango squash in various English-speaking countries.