Mirliton Squash

Q: I listened to your radio discussion of the mirliton squash a few weeks ago and wondered what was the resolution of how to plant it. Do you plant the whole thing? Will it grow here?

A: The beauty of my radio show is that I am regularly forced to re-examine things I once thought to be true. I thought I knew that all members of the squash family (gourd, melon, pumpkin, etc) had multiple seed. Come to find, there are nearly 900 species in the Cucurbitaceae family and most, but not all, have multiple seeds.

Mirliton is also known as chayote, custard marrow, vegetable pear, cho-cho and soussous. For all these exotic names, it is simply a subtropical member of the squash family, eaten as a vegetable. The fruit is pear-shaped, contains a single seed and has a taste similar to zucchini. My caller had received one from a friend in Louisiana. It is perennial in Southern coastal areas but is not winter-hardy in Atlanta. Here, the fruit can be planted in a pot for the winter and then can be transferred to a sunny spot outdoors for the summer.

One thing I do know to be true about ALL members of the squash family: the vines grow rapidly. Give your mirliton plenty of garden room.

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