That Thorny Vegetable Growing in Creepers

Well, this time I am not talking of a dish, but a vegetable. A very common vegetable that is found in Shillong – capital of Meghalaya in the north eastern part of India. The other common thing is that if you talk about this vegetable with your friends, 99% chances are that they will not be able to recognize it, at least in other parts of India.

Then you face the difficulty of explaining the vegetable to your friends. It’s called squash in Shillong. You say that to your fellow foodie friend and he might just reply – “That’s a game, you are not pronouncing it right may be.”

Squash is the native name given to this vegetable and yours truly had to go through a lot of browsing to find out its correct English name. It’s definitely embarrassing because not only has this fellow foodie friend of yours has had a lot of this vegetable in his lifetime, but he had never had to buy it, for the Chayote fruit’s creepers were all around his home. And to add to all the embarrassment, he is born and brought up in Shillong. Still I never knew until a few days back, the exact English name for this vegetable.

So, the English word for this vegetable is Chayote fruit – Chayote referring to the plant on which it grows. This vegetable is a member of the gourd family – the same family that also has bottle gourds and cucumbers in its group. Well for starters, it looks like a smaller version of a bottle gourd, narrower at the plucking point, and broadened at the tip. It’s thorny outside – not harmful at all. Just in case you are interested, its botanical name is Sechium edule.

The beautiful thing about the Chayote fruit is that not only the fruit but also the leaves, root and stem of this plant are edible. And you can make a lot of recipes including it. You can use it in a non-vegetarian curry or cook it with pulses and make a good dal or you can also make a salad out of it. Just mix and match and you have the right dish suiting your taste buds.

Let me help you out from a very amateur stand point with one simple recipe of squash – chana dal. The recipe can be explained in a few short steps:
1.    Peel and cut the chayote fruit into small cube pieces.
2.    Boil the chana dal separately.
3.    Prepare the tadka for the dal, with a slight variation. After you put your usual ingredients (onions/bay leaves/cardamom/dried red chillies) in the oil, just put the squash and cook it for some time. Now add some garam masala.
4.    Add the boiled chana dal and let it heat on low flame for around 15 minutes to get a smooth texture.
5.    And then, add salt as per taste

Now, since for a change, we have been discussing a vegetable, it makes sense that we mention a fact or two about its nutritional content. Chayote fruit is a very good source of Vitamin C. Like the other vegetables of the gourd family, it has a very rich quantity of water. All in all, a good vegetable to try from the nutritional point too.

Just for trivia, you would find it interesting to know that the region where this vegetable is known or is a native of is Mexico. To find out how Chayote travelled all the way from Mexico to Shillong is in my to-do lists. So, if Shillong happens to be enroute any of your destinations or is your next holiday destination, be sure to buy some of this vegetable and take it home. I assure, you won’t be disappointed.