For those of you not living in either California, Florida, Louisiana or Latin America, you may not be familiar with a merliton. Perhaps the names, chayote, vegetable pear, mango squash, cho-cho, xuxu or christophene ring a bell. They all refer to this versatile gourd-like vegetable that is grown around the world and called by various names. Historically, it was a primary food of the Aztecs and Mayas.
What Exactly is a Merliton?
A merilton is an edible plant of the Curcurbitaceae (gourd) family along with melons, cucumbers and squash. It is grown on a vine. It looks like a light green large pear, similar in color to a Granny Smith apple. The inside is a lighter color with a soft large seed.
A merliton can be fixed in as many ways as a sweet potato. It can be stuffed, fried, bake, mashed, creamed, pickled and buttered. The filling makes a great custard pie. It can be eaten raw and served cold in salads. It makes a great tasting soup and merliton fritters are a popular substitute for pancakes.
Many say that merlitons can be substituted for any recipe requiring squash. But I would add, for any recipe calling for sweet potatoes as well.
Merlitons are a low calorie vegetable, only 40 calories per cup. They are also low in sodium and a good source of fiber. They are rich in amino acids and vitamin C.
How Does A Merliton Taste?
It tastes good! A merliton tastes similar to summer squash, but a little sweeter. The outside texture is a cross between a potato and a cucumber. The inside is more similar to an eggplant. I prefer it cooked, but many eat it raw or pickled.
A great low calorie snack is to cut into strips and boil. Marinate with low fat salad dressing in the refrigerator. The strips make a great snack when looking for something quick to munch on.
Where Do I Buy One and Why Are Merlitons So Great?
Although merlitons were native to Mexica and Central America, they are now grown over the world. They can be found in ethnic markets including Asian, Indian, Philippian, Caribbean, and Latin American. They may be found in your local “super” supermarket, but most likely are not called a merliton.
Merlitons are great because they taste so good and can be fixed so many different ways. But best of all most people have never heard of them. I live in Texas and for me they are my secret weapons. When I want to WOW my friends with my cooking prowess, I cook a dish with merlitons. My Cajun merliton and shrimp soup has my neighbors begging for more!