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Edible root crops as food for the Mayan people (for thousands of years)

Sechium edule is a remarkable plant because you can eat most parts of it, especially the fruits, fresh stems and leaves. Plus you can also eat the root. The vegetable-like fruit is the most common. This vegetable is sold almost all year long in modern supermarkets as well as in Mayan village markets in remote areas. It comes in many sizes and several different colors. We speak about the edible parts in a separate page: now we work to present you a bibliography.

There are several varieties and different names for the vegetable part of Sechium edule:

  • Chayote
  • Güisquil
  • Pataste, (don’t confuse with pataxte, Theobroma bicolor)
  • Perulero

In English it is called vegetable pear.

As far as I know, in Guatemala the most common word for the edible root: ichintal. It may be spelled various ways depending on the author writing about it.

 

PDF, Articles, Books on Sechium edule,
including on the edible root, Ichintal

  • CADENA, J., ARÉVALO, L., AVENDAÑO, C., SOTO, M., RUÍZ, L., SANTIAGO, E., ACOSTA, M., CISNEROS, V., AGUIRRE, J. and D. OCHOA
  • 2007
  • Production, Genetics, Postharvest Management and Pharmacological Characteristics of Sechium edule (Jacq.) Sw. Fresh Produce. Vol. 1, No. 1. Pages 41-53.

    90% (or more) of articles on Sechium edule have zero photographs in color. More than half have zero photos in black-and-white, and zero drawings. Thus it was a pleasant surprise to see eight different sizes, shapes, colors, and presence or lack of spines shown in a single photograph (Fig. 1, page 42). He then has a photograph of commercial variation (Fig. 6, page 48).

    Available Online:
    www.globalsciencebooks.info/Online/GSBOnline/images
    /0706/FP_1(1)/FP_1(1)41-53o.pdf

 

  • CRUZ, A. and M. T. LÓPEZ
  • 2005
  • Dinámica de la formación de la raíz tuberizada del chayote (Sechium edule Sw.) en su primer año de cultivo. Revista Chapingo Serie Horticultura. Vol. 11, No. 1. Pages 13-19.

    Note: This article focuses on the growth of the root. Their Figura 2 shows the size, shape, and placement of every part of the entire root area.

    Available online:
    www.redalyc.org/pdf/609/60912502002.pdf

 

  • ENGELS, J. M. M.
  • 1983
  • Variation in Sechium edule in Central America. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. Vol. 108, No. 5. Pages 706-710.

    The illustration and information are based on the very same research as reported on in his 1985 article. Some of the text is identical. The same illustration is used and with no identification of which fruit has which characteristics (other than what your own eye can ascertain). So his tabulation of different features is not coordinated with any drawing whatsoever (at least not in these two articles, 1983 and 1985). The info is helpful but with color photographs and with illustrations for tabulations would be significantly better.

    Plus this article seems to be based exclusively on his collections of fruits from Costa Rica.

    Available Online:
    www.researchgate.net/publication/236856945_Variation
    in_Sechium_edule_Sw_in_Central_America

 

  • ENGELS, J. M. M.
  • 1985
  • Chayote: A little known Central American crop. Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter, Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations. No. 63. Pages 2-5.

    Note: Excellent introduction, however, as is typical, most of the research was in Costa Rica, and only some research in Guatemala. Has a single illustration which helps show the differences in size. But as typical of scholarly publications, not a single color photograph. And the drawings are not identified (not named nor discussed).

    Available Online:
    www.researchgate.net/publication/236286616
    Chayote_Sechium_edule_Sw_A_little_known
    Central_American_crop

 

  • LIRA, R.
  • 1996
  • Chayote. Sechium edule (Jacq.) Sw. Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 8. Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research. 58 pages.

    Note: This is an essential article to read, even though about 20 years old. He not only lists all wild relatives, he carefully shows maps of where each species has been found (so far). He then lists dozens of local names, including rasi cima in Alta Verapaz. There is an excellent photograph of the edible part of the roots (in a market in Mexico, location not specified). His figure 4, page 16. His photograph of diversity of size and shape of fruits (Fig. 6) shows significantly more than you see in the main markets of Guatemala City (I would expect more diversity in home gardens in different eco-systems of Guatemala).

    Available Online:
    http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnach876.pdf

 

  • LOMBARDO, F., ROMÁN, R., ZAMILPA, A., HERRERA, M., ROSAS, G., TORTORIELLO, J. and E. JIMÉNEZ
  • 2014
  • Extracts and fractions from edible roots of Sechium edule (Jacq.) Sw. with Antihypertensive Activity. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Vol. 2014. Pages 1-10.

    Note: Discussion of potential medicinal uses of Chayote fruits and roots.

    Available Online:
    www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2014/594326/

 

  • MORTON, J. F.
  • 1981
  • The chayote, a perennial, climbing, subtropical vegetable. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. Vol. 94. Pages 240-245.

    Note: Morton (1981) is one of the few authors who say the seeds are eaten (she lived in Florida). Not one of the Mexican botanists (that I have read so far) mentions the seeds as being eaten by local people. Same with the flower: Mexican botanists do not list the flower as being edible.

    Available Online:
    http://fshs.org/proceedings-o/1981-vol-94/240-245%20(MORTON).pdf

 

 

  • WHITAKER, T. W. and G. NORTON
  • 1962
  • Cucurbits: botany, cultivation and utilization. L. Hill. New, York 250 pages.

 

 

Suggested web pages with photos and information on Sechium edule, Ichintal

http://wimastergardener.org/files/2015/12/chayote.pdf
Information and photos.

https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/MV/MV04600.pdf
Information.

www.leafforlife.org/PAGES/SECHIUME.HTM
Information.

http://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Sechium_edule_(PROSEA)
Information.

www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2490160
Synonyms.

http://wimastergardener.org/article/chayote-sechium-edule/
Information and photos.

www.medicinatradicionalmexicana.unam.mx/monografia.php?l=3&t=Sechium%20edule&id=7159
Information about medicinal uses.

https://growerjim.blogspot.com/2012/11/chayote-sechium-edule.html
Photos.

 

First posted, early September, 2017.

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