Jane’s Favorite Vegetable
by Guest blogger: Jane Rabinowicz
Listen to her podcast HERE
It’s green, grows on trellises, and it’s my favourite vegetable. On a recent trip to Timor-Leste, I was ecstatic to find my favourite veggie growing on trellises around the home of local Batara village leader Tomas Pinto. Even better, I was treated to a lunch that featured the delicious vegetable.
It’s not just a gourd
Chayote is part of the gourd family, the same family that contains squashes, cucumbers and melons. Like its relatives, chayote is a climbing vine that can be supported by trellises to keep it off the ground, saving space and allowing other plants to grow in the shade beneath it. It has a delicate flavour, soft texture and is usually prepared much like zucchini.
Chayote originated in Mexico and spread during the 15th and 16th centuries. It has become integrated into the cuisines of many countries around the world, including those of the rural communities SeedChange works with in Timor-Leste.
Farming the Tomas does
The farmers we work within Timor-Leste, like Tomas Pinto, use a variety of ecological techniques to grow not only chayote, but an astonishing diversity of different crops in small areas. Techniques such as agroforestry, hillside terracing, and local compost fertilizer production, serve to nurture soil health, reduce the need for external pesticides and inorganic fertilizers, and increase climate resilience. The result is diverse, fertile farms, teeming with life from the upper canopies of the fruit, nut and palm trees to the decomposing leaf litter on the forest floor.
And, cooking it…
I’m reminded of Tomas Pinto’s farm whenever I find chayote for sale at my local market in Montreal. My favourite way to prepare it is simply by grilling or sauteing, not unlike the way it was prepared for me in Timor-Leste. No version is ever exactly the same, but this recipe probably comes closest to demonstrating how easy, simple, and delicious a dish made with chayote can be.
About this author:
Jane was appointed as an Executive Director of SeedChange in 2016, after joining the organization in 2011. Jane has dedicated her career to community-led change. She is co-founder of the Silver Dollar Foundation and serves on the Board of Directors of Tides Canada. Jane was named one of the 53 most influential people in Canada’s food system by The Globe and Mail, and one of Canada’s leading women changing the way we eat by Châtelaine Magazine.
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