Chayote (Sechium edule) is indigenous to Southern Mexico, Central America and is also grown in the West Indies and other warm regions. It is suited to higher elevations in the tropics and is also commonly cultivated in the sub-tropics.It is a vegetable common to the local markets. The fruits are eaten boiled as a vegetable, as are the large tuberous roots. The young leaves and tender shoots are sometimes eaten as spinach. The tuberous, starchy root is relished by some as a vegetable too. In Mexico, this is boiled and candied, or sliced and fried for table use. Chayote is oftentimes called the poor man's vegetable. Candy manufacturers and food processors have found the vegetable as an ideal cheap base for their various products. Pig growers also use it as one of the cheapest food supplements. (Source: Department of Agriculture- Bureau of Agricultural Research, Date accessed 24 March 2014)
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Climatic and Soil Requirements
Loose fertile soil is ideal for chayote. The crop, however, can be grown in a wide range of soil types. Cooler places with evenly distributed rainfall are suitable for chayote growing. Marginal areas where most crops are grown are used in the cultivation of chayote.
The seedlings are usually alternately planted at hill with row spacing of 3-5 meters. One to three seedlings of about 30cm high are planted in a hill. Holes are dug 30 cm wide and deep. Compost is thoroughly mixed with the top soil and placed back in the hole. Enough moisture should be given to the plants after planting.
The seedlings should be provided with enough water and fertilizer, and freed from noxious weeds. Stakes to serve as support and guide for the vines should be installed on time.
Cultivation and Weeding
As soon as the plants have established into the ground, cultivation and weeding should be employed whenever deemed necessary. A radius of 2 meters around each hill should be kept weed free to provide ample space for the crop's growth and development. Once the crop has spread on and covered the trellis, weed growth is suppressed. The conventional trellis system is still practiced.
Pruning and Trellising
If the intention of the farmer is the production of fruits, minimum pruning is necessary but the main vines should be well-trained for proper spreading and most effective use of sunlight, carbon dioxide, and other growth factors. Other farmers grow Chayote for their fresh tops. For this purpose, the farmer prunes as he harvest.
The use of side trellis may be applicable in areas prone to strong winds. The technique can withstand strong winds and with pruning, can enhance higher fruit bearing for the chayote crop.
Organic fertilizers are good for the crop. Basal application of compost is recommended. Side dressing should be done 7 to 8 weeks after planting with complete fertilizers and should be repeated every before and after the rainy season.
The fruits are harvested manually once they reach the desired size. Proper handling, which involves the use of proper baskets or other containers and putting the harvested fruits to a convenient shade makes the product stays fresh for a longer time.
Source: Department of Agriculture- Bureau of Agricultural Research, Date accessed 24 March 2014