Tag Archives: squash

Hunt for the elusive mirliton

6 Dec

The last 8 weeks have been busy.  Not too busy to write in the evening, just too many things going on to not get them all jumbled up.  Which would be really confusing for whoever chose to read my blog.  Things are progressing rapidly and I do so want to share so you’re just going to have to bear with me while I untangle the mess.

I have been on a Mirliton waiting list for so long I almost gave up on finding some.  This plump, sweet vegetable also goes by many other names.  The Aztecs, who domesticated it, called it chayotle.  It is christophine or brionne in much of the West Indies, chochoute in Madagascar and Polynesia, xuxu in Brazil, and chocho, custard marrow, pepinella, chayote and vegetable pear in various parts of the world.  Not too shabby for a little pear shaped squash with a thin green skin, crunchy white flesh and edible seed.

Since I grew up in New Orleans, mirliton casserole was one of those holiday dishes we enjoyed.  Not seeing any of these wonderful little squash at the Farmers Market I made up my mind that we should be growing some.  Not knowing anything about the plant or how it grows, I began looking for “seed” in every online catalog I could find.  Many months of unsuccessful searching made me more determined that I simply “had to have” this plant in our farm portfolio, if you will.  Finally one day I hit on a site with more information than I bargained for, only to find out how scarce these “seed” were and that I would have to be on a “waiting list” to get just one.

Here’s the thing, you can’t just “take the seed out of the fruit” and plant it.  You plant the entire fruit, the seed then gets its nourishment to grow from the fruit itself.  The problem is, the fruit you find in the store (to eat) won’t grow here in the states. Or so I am told.  The fruit in the store (being mostly imported) is acclimated to a higher elevation and thus will not grow successfully.  Oh, it will grow, just not well, plus it will be susceptible to many diseases making it a low producer of fruit and a headache for the grower.

There is however one exception, the Mirliton grown in Louisiana (my home state).  Apparently the Cajuns of Louisiana found a way to acclimate this squash plant many, many years ago and it has since been considered a “backyard staple”.  People just have them in their backyard, growing for their own enjoyment, passing seed down to their children and neighbors to in turn plant in their backyards, and on an on this tradition has gone.  Until nature decided otherwise.  The heirloom mirliton of South Louisiana were nearly destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav.

There was a huge part of me that considered going to the store, buying a “chayote” and sticking it in the ground to see what happened.  Then again, around here, you can only find “chayote” in the specialty stores and during a blue moon at Wal-Mart.  The spiritual side of me believes everything happens for a reason so I decided the waiting list was the way to go.  I mean seriously I had a million other things going on, waiting wouldn’t kill me.  Plus it would mean so much more to me to have an actual “heirloom mirliton” from my sweet Louisiana home.

November 3, 2012 the waiting came to a halt.  The Bywater Mirliton Festival was taking place and there would be a limited amount of “seed” available.  Fortunately this information came a week or so before the event.  Now, Bywater is a tiny community in New Orleans, Louisiana and therefore a 6 1/2 hours drive from our farm. 😦  I contemplated driving to the festival and back in one day, a crazy idea I know.  Fortunately I have an absolutely adorable sister and brother-in-law living in Lakeview (20 minutes from Bywater) and they agreed to go to the festival.  Honey, they scored me 5 Mirliton seed fruit.  Whoo Hoo!

The following Monday morning, after carefully packaging up these 5 precious seed, my sweet sister shipped them to me next day express mail.  Of course that will take 2 days to get to me as we are so far into the boonies it’s not funny, 2 day mail takes 3 days and so forth and so on.

Tuesday morning I got up anticipating the arrival of my new seed.  We had a busy weekend with the newly engaged couple and I was still trying to decide on a good planting location as these 5 mirliton would require 50 feet of trellising come spring.  Being election day I wanted to watch as much of what was happening on the political front as possible, so I decide to double up on the “house chores”, which would free me up for planting when my package arrived on Wednesday.

At noon, all hell broke loose with a phone call.

To be continued………………………………..