Chayote, also known as Chilean squash, is a superfood that is becoming increasingly available in Spanish supermarkets. This South American fruit has a high content of vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, and phosphorus. Emilio Martin, a researcher from the Andalusian Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries, Food, and Ecological Production Research, and Training (IFAPA), recently presented the results of a cultivation trial of this vegetable that was carried out at IFAPA's La Mojonera Center. According to him, the chayote is one of the best alternatives when implementing new crops in the province of Almeria.
"It is a great alternative to traditional horticultural crops," Martin said. The cultivation of chayote is optimal for Almeria's greenhouses and can be very profitable, as it can be sold at very good prices because of its nutritional qualities, he added. "We want to provide farmers with information about potential new crops that are productive and have a good commercial output," the researcher said.
How is it grown?
Native to southern Mexico, the chayote belongs to the cucurbit family; the same family of cucumbers, zucchini, and squash. Despite being a perennial plant, IFAPA recommends removing the plant and renewing the seeds every two years, approximately, so that its productivity does not decrease.
It is a climbing plant, which adapts very well to the greenhouses' infrastructure, and its tubers can be eaten. "Almost all of this plant can be consumed. The chayote can be cooked boiled, grilled, or eaten raw," Martin stated. Unlike other exotic plants, such as passion fruit, it does not need manual pollination, which greatly simplifies its cultivation.
To achieve good yields, the plant should be grown in temperatures under 30° C during the day and under 15° C at night. The plant adapts to any soil but requires a large amount of water, about 10-20 liters per day per plant, and high humidity in the soil.
"It is a very vigorous crop and needs permanent leaf removal," the researcher stressed.
The experiment in La Mojonera, which yielded a big harvest, was carried out in a greenhouse with 25 plants that were irrigated for 90 minutes a day in summer, with 5 droppers of 3 liters/hour for each plant, and 45-50 minutes in winter and autumn.