A species belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family and native to South America, the spiny courgette is the common name, at least in our peninsula, for the chayote, whose scientific name is Sechium edule.
In addition to pumpkin or spiny zucchini, the chayote is frequently called in our beautiful country also centenary pumpkin, spiny potato, spiny eggplant, American eggplant and sechio.
Let’s see together what are the characteristics, the properties, and how we cultivate this unusual vegetable that we often find on the stalls of our greengrocers.
Characteristics of Thorny Courgettes
Spiny courgette or chayote, widespread and known throughout the world for its properties, is grown mainly in all coastal areas of South America, in fact, the largest exporter of this vegetable is Costa Rica.
With an elongated oval shape of medium size, reaching up to 15 cm in length, the spiny zucchini has a color that varies from green when it is unripe, to light yellow when it is ripe.
Its firm green flesh is the part that is commonly eaten in our peninsula, although the shoots, leaves and other parts of the plant are also edible. The taste of the flesh of the spiny zucchini reminds us vaguely of that of the yellow pumpkin.
In the inner part of the fruit there is the seed of the plant, while its outer shell often has excrescences in the shape of needles, characteristics of courgette spiny.
The Properties Of Spiny Zucchini (Or Chayote)
Much used in the native areas for its anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties, the chayote or zucchini spinosa, in addition to water and mineral salts is rich in vitamin C and B and also amino acids.
Also rich in folic acid, the courgette spiny are also recognized slimming properties and ability to regulate metabolism.
Moreover, the regular consumption of this unusual fruit has beneficial effects on the circulation and cardiovascular system and helps to keep the kidneys clean of stones, helping them to dissolve.
How To Grow Spiny Zucchini
From fruit to leaves, from shoots to roots, eaten cooked or raw, thorny courgette, today, is an integral part of many recipes of different culinary cultures.
This vegetable can also be grown without major problems in our country, in regions with a mild to hot climate not too harsh.
Planting Of The Spiny Pumpkin
The sowing of the spiny pumpkin takes place through the whole ripe fruit, possibly already sprouted.
This is an unusual condition and thing, even if it is normal for these species of plants as the seed, once sprouted, will feed on the pulp of the fruit that contains it to grow and take root.
The fruit, whole and ripe, will be buried for about half of its height, considering that this plant can reach considerable heights, in fact it can even exceed 7-8 m and in some cases even 10 m choose carefully the place where to grow the plant.
It is a good idea to plant the thorny courgette in a pot, let it grow for at least 30 cm and then plant it in the most suitable place in our garden.
When choosing the ideal place we must also bear in mind that it will need supports being a climbing plant and therefore also consider the space for them.
The ideal period for sowing spiny courgettes is the end of April and the beginning of May.
The Ideal Soil For Cultivating Thorny Courgettes
Even if it prefers those rich of organic substances, the spiny courgette adapts well to all types of soil, provided well drained, in order to avoid water stagnations and the possible consequence of the birth of diseases connected to the radical rottenness.
The Ideal Climate For Thorny Courgettes
Being native to hot areas, the thorny courgette prefers hot places and mild temperatures, it fears the cold and can hardly stand too low temperatures.
When Should I Water My Thorny Pumpkin?
When still young, it should be watered only when the soil is dry, to avoid damage to the young roots, and as we have already mentioned avoid stagnation of water that could affect the growth of the plant.
Watering, on the other hand, will be more frequent when the plant has become larger and begins to bloom and bear fruit, especially during periods of hot and humid weather, which should always be abundant and regular.
When to Fertilize Thorny Courgettes
Organic or manure manure is the ideal fertilizer for thorny courgettes in the flowering and fruiting period, while to promote growth use a fertilizer based on phosphorus and potassium.
Harvesting the Thorny Pumpkin
The spiny zucchini blooms in summer and its fruits appear in this period and mature and are harvested in autumn, depending on the area and the climate between October and November.
In winter, the plant goes through its period of vegetative rest, before recovering in the first heat of the following spring.
The Adversity Of Thorny Courgettes
Among the different parasites that can damage our thorny zucchini, surely the red spider or spider web is the most common. In addition to the red spider, aphids also play their part and can also frequently infest our plants.
A natural remedy to eliminate these pests, if the infestation is not excessive, is to use the soap of Marseille diluted in water, about 10-15 g per 10 liters of water and spray the solution thus obtained on the plant.
Even ants can damage our plants, in fact during the flowering period and the birth of new small fruits, can make their appearance, in this case you can use neem oil if the soap of Marseille is not enough to eradicate the infestation.