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GROWING THE CHAYOTE IH FLORIDA HUME LIBRARY
James M. Stephens JUL 11 1972
Asst. Vegetable Crops Specialist
Florida Agricultural Extension Service
August, 1964 I.F.A.S. Univ. of Florida
The chayote has been grown in Florida for many years to a limited extent.
While native to Guatemala, it is popular throughout tropical regions, where
it is known by several names including "vegetable pear", "mirliton," and
Description It is a tender, perennial-rooted cucurbit, with climbing
vine and leaves resembling those of its cousin, the cucumber. The light green,
pear-shaped fruit, which contains a single, flat edible seed, may weigh as much
as two or three pounds. While fruits may be slightly grooved and priclly,
those in Florida are usually smooth. A root-like, starchy tuber (also edible)
forms under the crown. In most cases, it is the fruit for which the plant is
The following chayote facts are necessary to an understanding of how and
when it may be grown in Florida.
(1) The vines are easily killed by frost.
(2) The vines grow all summer, but heat and drought are major problems.
(3) The vines may resume growth from old roots in the spring.
(4) Vines flower and set fruit only during short days of fall, winter,
and early spr.'.ng.
In North and Central Florida where frosts are common, a spring crop is
rarely, if ever, produced. This is due to the fact that vines resuming growth
after the last spring frost mature under long day conditions, too late for
fruit set. Even in South Florida where plantings may be made very early in
the spring or middle of winter, only a small spring crop should be expected.
Throughout Florida, the main crop will be produced in the fall from
vines started in the spring and surviving through the summer. Fruit will be
set about October 1, and first fruits may be harvested about November 1.
Fruiting will continue from then on until the vines are killed by frost or
otherwise. Thus, in North Florida the harvest period may be very short. In
frost-free seasons in South Florida, vines may continue to bear through the
winter and into spring.
Since the vines must be carried over the summer in the field to insure a
fall crop, summer survival is a major problem in Florida. Although a tropical
plant, the chayote may Le severely affected by the extreme heat and periodic
drought of Florida summers. Some manner of shading the entire plants and/or
of mulching the roots for moisture conservation might prove to be a solution
to this problem.
Early fall planting is not practical, as seeds cannot be effectively stored
from one fall crop to the next. Late fall planting might be practical if
done with seed from the current fall crop in South Florida where vines would
survive the winter.
Soils Chayotes can be grown in most good garden soils including vell-
drained mucks and probably marls. Home gardeners might want to try two or
more locations at the same time, hoping that at least one location would be
favorable. One successful plant will produce three or four bushels of chayotes.
Supports Some type of trellis or support for the climbing vines is
required. Host trellises in Florida have been constructed about head high
to facilitate walking beneath the vines for harvesting and other operations.
Other types of support such as a single-row, angle-staked trellis might work
Seeds The chayote fruit is used as the seed. Each fruit has a single
large, close-fitting seed which sprouts as soon as the fruit reaches maturity
unless placed in cool storage. Fruits stored at 50 to 550 F. should remain
in good condition for planting for as much as six to eight weeks. Fruits for
planting may Le obtained at certain times of the year from Reuter Seed Co.,
Inc., New Orleans ?, La. Occasionally, listings of chayotes may be found in
the Florida Market Report (State Dept. of Agr.)
Planting The entire fruits are planted one-per-hill in hills spaced'
12-feet apart in rows spaced 12-feet apart. The fruit is placed on its side
with the smaller, stema-end sloping upward. Uhile the stem-end is often left
slightly exposed, in colder areas of Florida growers have found that the fruit
should be completely covered with soil to protect the bud from cold damage.
Another cold protection planting tip is to plant four or five English peas in
a ring around the chayote fruit.
Fertilizing Uell rotted animal manures or composted materials are
beneficial. On most sandy soils, about 3-pounds of 6-C-0 fertilizer per plant
should be applied in three applications 1-pound at planting time, 1-pound
in the middle of the summer, and 1-pound when fruits are small. Fertilizing
at more frequent intervals might be necessary when conditions warrant.
Mulching Soil moisture may be conserved and other benefits produced
from the liberal application of a good, loose, mulching material such as leaves,
straw, or Spanish moss.
Nematodes Chayote roots are highly susceptible to attack by root-knot
nematodes. It is suggested that the soil be treated with D-D, EDB, or
other effective nematocides two or three weeks prior to planting.
Since such treatments are relatively short-lasting as compared with the
summer-long length of time the plants are growing, nematocides (such as
Nemagon) which may be applied near growing plants may be worthy of trial on
a limited basis.
Other pests The chayote may be attached at one time or another by one
or more of the cormmon insect or disease pets attacking cucumbers or squashes
in Florida. Most of these may be controlled by early application of a general
insecticide dust or spray containing zineb or maneb plus lindane or malathion.
Use The chayote may be served in many ways creamed, buttered, fried,
stuffed, baked, frittered, boiled, mashed, pic!-led, in salads, or in pies.
Recipes may be obtained from County Home Demonstration Agents. In whatever
manner served, the chayote will taste best if used very soon after harvest at
a slightly immature stage.
Storage Fruits may be stored in edible condition for several wee's if
wTrapped in newspaper and lhept cool (500 -550 F.). At room temperature, the
fruit will shrivel and sprout. The longer fruits are stored, the poorer the
Ac!mowledgements Mach of the information reported herein has resulted
from the observations and experience of Dr. ... P. Lorz, Horticulturist,
Fla. Agr. Exp. 3ta., r. Den Groover, former chayote grower, and other early
chayote growers around Florida. Another information source has been the
The mention of specific trade-names or firms is not implied -ac endo-rsement
nor is it intended to discredit other materials ori- firms of similar nature.