The most recent dish I prepared using items from the food share was not a success. It was fine, I ate it, but it was nothing to write home about (and I write home regularly). The fault most likely lies somewhere between the recipe I chose, and my own limited familiarity with the item at hand—a chayote squash.
Chayote are in the gourd family (along with pumpkins, zucchini, other squash). Native to Central America, this starchy perennial was a staple food source for the Aztecs and Mayans. Its common name is Spanish, but originates with the Nahuatl word for the fruit: chayotl. The single seed can be eaten or removed, and the flowers, leaves, and roots are edible in addition to the fruit. Sometimes referred to as a “vegetable pear,” this fruit comes in both prickly and smooth varieties. Be sure to refrigerate this item after purchasing—it will last for many days at cool temperatures. That said, it is tastiest if eaten right away.
Though chayote is a botanical fruit(it is a suitcase for seeds!), it is often cooked as a vegetable in a variety of savory dishes. The texture is smooth and crisp, much like an apple or cucumber. If you want to use it into a dish you already know, I recommend treating it like a root vegetable or summer squash. Some sources also suggest that it makes a good addition to a salsa or salad—just chop it up raw and mix it in! Because the flavor of the chayote is subtle and mild, it is best cooked with a variety of strong spices – aaaaaand, if you prefer your squash sweet, try adding it to a dessert recipe just like you would a pumpkin!
Spicey Chayote Soup (what would YOU add to spice this up?)
- 2 green onions, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ¼ tsp hot green chili (optional)
- ½ tbs oil of your choice
- 2-3 chayotes peeled, quartered, pitted. Cut into ½ inch pieces
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbs cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 ¾ cups water or broth
- Cook scallions, garlic, and chili in oil over low heat until soft (about 3 minutes).
- Add chayote, salt and 1 tbs cilantro. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. This would be a great spot to add any other spices you love to give the soup more character!
- Add water/broth and simmer for 15-20 minutes. The chayote should be soft!
- Stir in 1 tbs cilantro, and puree soup until smooth. Add salt if needed to taste.
Where is your food journey taking you?
Attempting to cook with Chayote really made me think. Not only because it was unfamiliar and required extra time and planning, but because finding something unfamiliar at the food share is an exception for me, not the norm. Generally, I recognize most of the items in the food share. Often, the fruits and vegetables available are very much a part of the culinary traditions I grew up with at home (German Cuisine meets Southern Comfort Food).
Being presented with food that I recognize means that I know what to do with it, and I know how to budget my time. This is a privilege, no ifs, ands or buts about it. Food access is about more than availability and affordability. It is about knowledge, confidence, familiarity, and preference. I love teaching about food, because knowledge helps build confidence, leads towards familiarity, and aids in developing a wider range of preferences. That said, truly good food education also acknowledges and values the preferences and traditions participants already have.
Food Share challenges our cooking skills
This is important. Perhaps you recognize all the items in the food share, but don’t have much experience cooking them. Perhaps you are confident cooking with the produce you find, but are missing the few key items you need to cook the dishes you truly love. Perhaps you are in the same boat as me, or are my polar opposite: the items I know intimately are the ones that require a bit more planning and intention for you.
This blog is a space where we can celebrate our diverse experiences and connections to food, a place where we can share our food knowledge and traditions, supporting our fellow members in confidently trying new foods and recipes by reducing the burden of time. The recipes I highlight and share are limited by my personal knowledge and experience. So there is my little philosophical blurb on my very practical reason for wanting to highlight YOUR recipes and stories, not just my own. That way a truly great chayote recipe can make its way onto our blog, and those cooking with chayote for the first time will have a vouched for recipe to experiment with. Let’s share the cultural capital we are cooking up in our kitchens!
Kassia Rudd is a local gardener committed to furthering community and environmental health through sustainable food systems education and outreach.